Under immense public pressure, three Board of Commissioners Thursday night tabled a motion to provide expanded post-employment healthcare coverage to themselves. Bravo to Tam, Bell, and Amos! Let’s hope it stays tabled. It is a fact that unfunded pension and medical liabilities are out of control and threaten to bankrupt many counties.
The benchmark for what is fair in providing benefits to public officials should be (and is rapidly becoming) what is offered in the private sector. Public officials should get benefits that are no better and no worse than provided by the private sector to the taxpayers who pay the bills.
The Kaiser Family Foundation/HRET Survey indicates that only 27 percent of employers in the South with more than 200 employees provide any kind of retirement medical coverage at all; the sponsorship falls to 4 percent for Southern employers with fewer than 200 employees. In contrast, 83 percent of state and local governments provide some form of post-retirement medical coverage eligibility. This must and will stop.
Now, let’s assume that it is OK to offer some form of post-retirement medical eligibility to elected officials. It should be on the same basis and rules as required for other county employees. It is unacceptable that elected officials would vote to grant themselves medical coverage eligibility for the number of years that they served in elected office (regardless of age). The private sector never does that.
The limited number of employers who do continue to provide this benefit require that the retiree usually must be at least 55 or 60 years of age with at least 20 to 25 years of service; never year-for-year credit.
It will be time to get out the rakes and hoes and storm the Bastille if a 35- to 50-year-old public servant is able to continue medical coverage beyond their service date at the standard county employee contribution rate. This is truly government run amuck. I expect this out of Washington and Obamacare; I certainly don›t expect policies this ill-conceived down the street and around the corner.
Keep this issue tabled and dead — not under the table.