To the editor:
State tax receipts are far below projections due to the slowing economy, and spending cuts are being sought to balance the budget. At the same time, a proposal to extend health benefits to "partners" of government employees to match the benefits provided to spouses has been well-received by some powerful state politicians. They argue that it is not fair to cover spouses and not "partners."
The time has come to re-examine who should be afforded health benefits and who should not. Of course, in a fairy-tale world, the government would possess a money tree and everyone would receive benefits. Sadly, it does not.
The current practice of covering spouses harkens back to the time when the breadwinners were mostly men and their wives were full-time homemakers caring for their children. Such is no longer the situation. The wives are almost as likely as their husbands to be employed, and not infrequently at higher salaries than their husbands.
In fairness and in recognition of good social policy and limited government resources, who should receive health benefits in addition to the employee herself? The answer is the minor children of the employee and the full-time homemaker caring for children. No one else!
Spouses and "partners" of state employees who do not qualify for state-paid health benefits should be given the opportunity to buy into the state benefits program at a premium not subsidized by taxpayers. (It would be interesting to see if the government program were competitive with private health insurance). The employee could identify the eligible person simply as her best friend. Fiancees, siblings and best friends also would be eligible under the "best friend" designation, and the state government would have no reason to delve into the employee’s bedroom practices.
Under some estimates that I have seen, extending health benefits to "partners" would increase the overall cost of the program by 10 percent. If that is the government estimate, one can expect a much larger increase if the extension is ever enacted. Whatever the real cost increase, it is going in the wrong direction.
Under current circumstances, cost cuts are needed, and the changes outlined above would cut the costs of state employee health benefits by a significant amount. It would also resolve the fairness issue in regard to "partners."
No chance for reform
To the editor:
In his discussion last month of the coming public employee "pension storm," Review-Journal Publisher Sherman Frederick’s closing question was, "Are our elected officials up to the task?"
I am certain that this was a rhetorical question, and that he already knows the answer. Not to put too fine a point on it, my answer would be not no, but hell no.
Anyone who has any doubt should just review their elected officials’ track records. If these were race horses, who would bet on them? I’m sure neither Mr. Frederick nor any thinking individual would.