Re: Warwick City Council Rejects $1 Million in Budget Savings
Dan Yorke just had Warwick City Councilman Steve Merolla on to talk about why the City of Warwick has eschewed an additional $1 million in cost-savings by deciding to stay with Blue Cross/Blue Shield instead the cheaper United Healthcare as manager of the City’s employee healthcare plan. (The “manager” distinction is important–Warwick pays its own claims, the healthcare provider only administers it. That means a claim rejected by the provider can be appealed to the City, which can decide to pay it anyway).
Merolla stated there were many city employee union members in attendance at the meeting and they made it clear they would be unhappy if United was chosen. Merolla himself was threatened by someone in the gallery at the meeting (he’s filed a police report). It’s Merolla’s belief that this intimidation was a factor in why the majority of the City Council ignored the recommendation of it’s own, appointed consultant and voted to stay with BC/BS and cost the City of Warwick nearly $1 million.
Finally, Yorke asserted that BC/BS is bought an paid for by unions. Currently, there are three union members on the BOD, including Chairman of the Board, Frank J. Montanaro, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.
Nobody wants a reduction in healthcare benefits which is what switching from BCBS to United is no matter how you sugarcoat it. The unions will accept the change when they have no choice in the matter, but don’t expect them to go down without a fight.
It is universally misunderstood that unions have the best of everything. Perhaps every taxpaying citizen in Rhode Island could submit to an audit and have everybody’s pay and benefits public knowledge. The private sector is able to preach of the unfairness of union contracts without shedding light on their own pay and benefits. A circle the wagons mentality has evolved within the unions in large part because there is no evidence that they (we) are overcompensated. If there were proof of the disparity union arguments would be considerably diminished and a sense of fairness would take hold. (I would hope)
Councilman Merolla’s belief that the City Council was intimidated by those in attendance at the meeting is absurd, and he knows it. The City Council in Warwick rely heavily on city workers votes to remain in office. Voting against them is political suicide, right or wrong.
I don’t know how the board at BCBS runs, but having three members on the board of seventeen members hardly constitutes a bought board, regardless of who the chairman is.
Are you suggesting that folks in the private sector are being disingenuous when they look at union deals and declare that they are extremely generous? When they explain that the have to pay copays and, often, substantial percentages of their healthcare policies? When they balk at retiring after a certain number of years and receiving full health coverage and large-salary-percentage pensions? We can certainly argue about what everybody should expect or demand from their employers, but are you insinuating that the private sector really has it pretty good and is picking on unions from behind a veil of secret compensation packages?
But overcompensation has another dimension… from the point of view of the employer, which in the case of public employees includes all of the taxpayers. Yesterday, I lost a critical portion of my income because the company for which I was working is striving to survive as a company and deemed my position a reasonable thing to cut. In other words, the company can’t afford something, and as the analysis shook out, it was me (among others). Similarly, Rhode Island and Rhode Islanders simply can’t afford the deals that the unions demand, and one of the reasons there is such palpable resentment is that the unions will not make any concessions, as in Warwick, to ease the burden about which citizens are screaming ever more loudly.
Friends and family privately employed may not have a pension (for now) or health care as good as mine, or job security, but they have profit sharing, matching contributions to their 401K, tuition reimbersment, bonuses, pay plus commission, performance reviews with raises if applicable (yes, I would welcome them)company cars and other perks. Twelve thousand dollars a year is a lot of money for health insurance, but it can be, and for some is balanced in other ways. I see how they live and am quite happy for them.
That being said, I know I have a pretty good deal, maybe as good as or better than them. I just don’t KNOW that it is. It is easy to say the other side has it made when you don’t have to lay your own cards on the table.