City officials’ stance on police health care doesn’t add up

Is it fair to ask Hamtramck police officers to bear the brunt of their health insurance?

Hamtramck is in a tight space. According to a new state law, pushed through by a majority of Republican lawmakers, there is now a cap on how much a city can spend on public employee health care costs and other benefits.

The Hamtramck City Council may have gone a little further in passing on this cost to police officers, or maybe not, depending on who you talk to. Long story made short, the city council has stuck to its guns in forcing officers to pay a hefty price for health insurance.

For family coverage it’s close to $11,000 a year.

We’re going to sidetrack for a moment here and point out that Ferndale firefighters agreed to a new health plan that requires firefighters to kick in $4,000 for family coverage.

We don’t know what insurance carrier that’s with, but it would be wise for Hamtramck to investigate further.

Back to Hamtramck.

Police officers here have filed an injunction to temporarily halt the latest health plan, but there is no guarantee they will successfully interpret what the state law specifically means.

What’s more pertinent in this debate is whether the city passed on a better plan that would have been easier on the wallet for officers, and also produced a much larger savings for the city.

It’s a complicated deal that requires the firefighters to re-open their contract, and agree to climb on board with the new insurance plan. Technically, firefighters don’t have to agree to anything new because they have a solid contract that runs through 2014.

But, according to officials, the firefighters seemed to be leaning toward agreeing to this new insurance plan, even if it would mean digging deeper in their pockets just to help lower the cost for the cops and city employees.

This is an all-around lousy situation in the sense that the state is forcing all communities and public employees to make tough choices.

But it seems to us that if the city can realize a bigger savings with a health plan that is kinder to cops, we should go for it.

Instead, we are told that the plan at work here is to play hardball with officers in order to extract more concessions, such as lowering the minimum staffing levels.

Folks, keep in mind these are tough economic times and the state – or at least Republican lawmakers — are tightening the screws on communities.

Remember that, come next election time.

If the argument is to be tough on health benefits to get more concessions, we have a solution. Let this contract negotiation play out until the point where paydays are at stake, and then go to the state and ask for the next step before an emergency financial manager can step in.

Under a new state law, the state can grant local governments more leeway in forcing contract concessions under a special arrangement.

If the police unions still refuse, well, let them deal with the legal powers that emergency financial managers wield.

At least city officials can say they tried to negotiate a deal that’s fair to both sides.

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