Just a quick catch-up note or two; I’m BAAAAAACK! Also, a lengthier version of this was posted at Hot Air’s Green Room. You can thank (or curse, as the case may be), Ed later.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is including a proposal to dump all 4,400 county employees onto PlaceboCare, offering a “tax-neutral subsidy” to buy insurance on the exchanges. He claims that providing “subsidies”, really pay increases so he doesn’t have to go hat in hand to the Obama administration for the same exemption from the no-employer-subsidy law Congress got, for the employees to purchase insurance on the PlaceboCare exchanges will save the county $10 million per year. Even though the county is expecting to otherwise pay UnitedHealthCare nearly $14,000 per employee next year, I somehow doubt the math will work to that extent. After all, the not-exactly-functional exchanges will charge Wisconsinites some of the highest premiums in the country, with the “silver” plan having a Milwaukee-area retail (i.e. pre-subsidy) price of just over $11,000 per year for a family of 4. There are also open questions of whether units of government will be charged the $3,000 per employee tax fine other large employers not offering health insurance will eventually be charged and whether, to make it tax-”neutral”, the county can offer “pre-tax” dollars.
Even though earlier rumblings out of the Board had been negative toward this idea when it was merely a rumor floating around the courthouse, Board Chair Marina Dimitrijevic was quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying she was “always interested in studying ideas that could expand health care options and produce savings.” That suggests that the Board might be on board this idea.
This is all possible without much fear of a union backlash because of 2011’s Act 10, which allows units of government in Wisconsin to dictate the terms of non-wage compensation to unions, just as they had to non-union employees. I know I’ve seen stories of other local governments nationwide at least threatening to end employer-provided health coverage, but I cannot remember what I’ve done with the links to the stories. Of note, the FY2014-FY2015 state budget did not take health insurance benefits away from state employees even though most of the same Republicans who passed Act 10 passed that budget.