Bill would end lifetime subsidized health care benefits for council members

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 5:11pm

With a property tax hike currently on the table, a Metro councilman says now is the time to end one of the council’s most expensive perks: lifetime, taxpayer-subsidized health care benefits.

Councilman Carter Todd, who represents parts of Forest Hills and Green Hills, has filed an ordinance that would end Metro’s policy that allows former two-term council members to continue to buy into the council’s subsidized health care plan after they leave office.

“It’s kind of a hidden time bomb, I think,” Todd said of the policy he hopes to undo. “We’re going through all this tax increase stuff right now. I think if we’re asking people in Nashville to maybe take on more of a burden, then the Metro Council ought to tighten its belt, too.”

Todd’s bill heads before the council on the first of three votes June 5, the same night the council will consider Mayor Karl Dean’s 53-cent property hike on a key second of three votes.

According to Todd’s ordinance, the Metro-subsidized benefit costs taxpayers approximately $300,000 annually. Like other Metro employees, current and former council members pay for 25 percent of the health care plan while the city pays 75 percent.

The proposal comes nearly four years after The Tennessean, in September 2008, first shed light on the little-known perk in a story that caused immediate buzz in Metro government circles. At the time, 18 current and 28 former council members carried the subsidized health benefit — some who were eligible for Medicare. The plan covers some former council members’ families, The Tennessean reported in 2008.

“Right now, if you serve two-full terms on the Metro Council, for the rest of your life you can buy subsidized health care,” Todd said. “It’s kind of a benefit that when you do your financial statements with the city, you can’t really quantify it. No one knows how much health care is going to cost. It’s just an undisclosed liability that can just grow and grow.”

Todd said his ordinance is written in a way that “grandfathers,” or protects, sitting and former council members who are currently eligible for the council’s health care plan.

“It will apply to future Metro Councils,” Todd said, specifically council members who are sworn into office beginning in September 2019.

The proposal allows council members who were participants of the health care plan while they held office to continue to receive the benefit, “provided they pay the full amount of the premium without any subsidy from the Metro government.”

Todd’s ordinance could perhaps find some support in the 40-member council, especially from some conservative-leaning members who are wary of Dean’s tax hike.

Nonetheless, Todd is skeptical about the prospects of his own legislation: “I don’t think it will pass,” he said. “But I think it’s a good idea, and it’s something I think the taxpayers would appreciate.”

22 Comments on this post:

By: WickedTribe on 5/30/12 at 8:56

Thank goodness for this. There is no justification for such an excessive benefit for people who serve such a short time doing so little. And IF it grandfathers anyone, it should only do so for like a year, to give them time to find insurance (or a job) elsewhere. It definitely should not grandfather them for their entire lives.

By: MusicCity615 on 5/30/12 at 10:38

YES. End this dumb, pointless benefit at the taxpayer's expense.

By: ralane on 5/30/12 at 11:37

This is a start, lets also end it for county state and federal elected officials. Being elected should not entitle one to lifetime medical on the peoples money.

By: spooky24 on 5/31/12 at 6:08

Political grandstanding perhaps? It is difficult to justify this expense however it is a spit in the ocean to the amount of money this city waste.

sp

By: itsmyfirstday on 5/31/12 at 7:01

This is a excellent start!! Special thanks to Councilman Carter Todd.

fd

By: titansjoe on 5/31/12 at 7:27

It is for sure more political B.S. since the councilman himself says it won't pass. The tax increase will pass with flying colors and employees will recieve their first raise in over 5 years. Keep in mind that the former mayor was none too kind to metro employees. Almost all employees are bringing home less than they did several years ago and if the raise goes thru they know they will be paying more for benefits. Keep in mind with inflation the dollar has also shrunk.

One other thing that really gets under my skin is the fact that metro dips into the benefit fund when they feel there is a surplus. Metro claims to be paying 75% of employees health care benefits and the employee pays 25 %. Thats a great benefit if its true. However, it would also be some of the most expensive insurance available.

What Metro doesn't say is they have tapped the benefit fund many times as one finance director decided there was a 10 million dollar surplus that could be used in the general fund. When metro took the 10 million out they didn't give the employees their 2.5 million refund. Another question might be why did the rates for employees continue to rise while metro was taking it out the back door.

Also keep in mind that most employees live inside metro and will suffer the same tax increase as all other citizens that feel like they are continuously going backward in this ecconomy.

My point in all of this blabbering is metro will make the employees out to be the big drag on the city. In fact its the council, the administration and mayor whom are simply over spending. They are giving our tax dollars away to special interest as well as constantly building new facilities that are not neccesary and then expecting the tax payers and employees to absorb the cost. It just aint right!

By: govskeptic on 5/31/12 at 8:26

This has been an outrageous benefit from the beginning and was made even
worse when the heart attack by Councilman Dread caused the council to
reduce the time for it to take affect, and made his case retro active for life
time benefit for a well paid attorney! Several current members ran and
were elected to receive this benefit, so don't expect any support for this
bill anytime soon, although it should pass unanimously!

By: wasaw on 5/31/12 at 9:02

This bill will pass, unanimously, ONLY because those who will be doing the voting will not be affected. Isn't it sad that we, the taxpayers, are paying for the health cost of Councilman Brady Banks and Ronnie Stein, both convicted criminals. Neither of these two could pass the background check for a police or fireman's job. Possibly a public works job, but no higher.

By: cadillac5 on 5/31/12 at 9:37

Councilman Todd should be recognized for this effort on behalf of the taxpayers.The news will be the high profile Mayor Deans position on this bill.Under cover he will support the bill as it provides more perks for politicians which is why most serve.If elected government officials at all levels would actively reduce corruption,perks lavish expense accounts,our faith in government would improve.However,I do not see this occuring in the future.

By: Jughead on 5/31/12 at 12:33

ANd, I see Karl Marx Dean is wasting thousands of dollars on stupid "car recharging" stations on Woodland Street. Liberal tax-n-spend at it finest. Pay a California company thousands and thousands of dollars for a politically-correct project that NOBODY will use.

Then, Karl says he needs more money from property owners. HELL NO!

By: Jughead on 5/31/12 at 12:34

Ronnie Stein is a thief. Brady Banks patronizes prostitution. And I must pay for their health care? HELL NO!

By: yucchhii on 5/31/12 at 1:01

Nice thought, but GREEDY CRIMINALS are not going to volluntarily give up something that fits so easily into THEIR pockets!!

By: JohnGalt on 5/31/12 at 1:19

I suspect the councilweasels who have jobs could get insurance through their employment but probably prefer the Metro insurance because it costs them less out of pocket. That should surely stop.

By: bandaidman on 5/31/12 at 2:08

I would eliminate it for both current and past members. Only full time elected officials should receive tax payer subsidized perks like this

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By: Rocket99 on 6/1/12 at 8:14

Metro Council should not be getting Metro health insurance benefits in the first place. This should be removed completely along with any benefit going to any former Council member.

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