Does cap on public employee health care help taxpayers or harm economy?

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Capital News Service
LANSING – If Gov. Rick Snyder signs a bill now before him regarding health care for public employees, taxpayers could save money while public employees are asked to cover higher portions of the costs.
“It is going to be a positive change for Michigan,” said Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, who authored a key provision.
But Doug Pratt, Michigan Education Association director of public affairs, said Michigan’s economy will suffer.
“The bill will suck money out of the local economies,” Pratt said.
If teachers are forced to pay more for their benefits, that’s less money they will have to put back into their local economies, Pratt said. “Local businesses will take a hit because of this.”
The bill included Johnson’s proposal which capped the amount taxpayers are required to pay for public employee healthcare. It also caps the amount public employers are expected to pay.
Employers would not pay more than $5,500 annually for individual employee health care, $11,000 for married couples and $15,000 for family plans.
School and local municipalities have the option to split the costs 80/20 with their employees, according to Johnson. The bill puts public employee healthcare benefits more in line with the private sector.
“Financial managers and boards have continually come up with different ways to make ends meet, and now it’s time for the public sector to utilize those methods,” Johnson said in a prepared statement.
Johnson said the bill forces employers to shop around for the best health care plans for their employees.
Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, the only Republican to oppose the bill, agreed with the concept but saud that the bill was too rigid.
All employees will have to pay a rate set by their employer for health care, he said. Lower paid employees are expected to pay the same rate as employees on top of the totem pole.
Pratt said the state officials are trying to ease the impact they caused by cutting school funding.
School district officials and employees met before the bill was announced to discuss health care benefits and came to agreements, but lawmakers didn’t take their efforts into account, he said.
Editors Note: The bill was presented to Snyder on September 13.  He has 14 days to sign it.
All articles © 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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