Metro Council backs Dillon's coverage idea

August 14, 2009
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Although all the details haven’t been completely ironed out, members of the Grand Valley Metro Council expressed their early support for a plan that would consolidate health insurance coverage for Michigan’s public employees and retirees.

State House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, has proposed covering all public sector workers and retirees, including those employed at government entities like the Metro Council, under a master contract or two that would be administered by the Office of State Employer. Currently state, county, city, township and public school employees and retirees are covered by hundreds of health insurance plans.

“While we find it interesting, we have some questions,” said Kentwood Mayor Richard Root.

A House fiscal analysis of Dillon’s proposal estimated the cost savings would run from $565 million to $870 million annually for all of the state’s public sector employees and retirees. The biggest savings would come from creating a system of standardized coverage, which would cut the cost of health coverage to taxpayers by $400 million to $600 million each year.

The council’s Legislative Committee recently reviewed Dillon’s health-insurance proposal with Bill Anderson and Summer Minnick of the Michigan Municipal League, a statewide organization that represents the interests of cities and villages in Lansing. Committee members agreed that:

  • Dillon showed a remarkable level of political courage by tackling the issue.

  • The proposal is a serious initiative worthy of discussion and debate.

  • If the proposal becomes law, it would have a wide-ranging effect on health insurance at the county and local government levels.

  • The Legislature would have to enact a resolution to the binding arbitration statute that involves police and fire employees, if the proposal goes forward.

Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula wants the local agency to dig deeper into the proposal’s cost savings and compare the findings to the health-insurance spending that local governmental units make.

“What I think it would do is save jobs,” said Eric DeLong, Grand Rapids deputy city manager, who spoke recently with Dillon about his proposal.

Stypula suggested that the council send Dillon a note of gratitude for his leadership on the issue, and board members unanimously agreed to do that. Root, who chairs the council’s Legislative Committee, suggested that a similar letter be sent to State Senate Majority Leader Michael Bishop because the Rochester Republican supports Dillon’s proposal. The board agreed to do that too.

Stypula said the letters would also ask Dillon and Bishop to include the Metro Council in any discussion of the proposal.

“I think this is an excellent idea,” said GVMC Chairman Jim Buck.

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