A push by two Bloomfield Township trustees and dozens of residents on Monday, November 25, to boost healthcare premiums to township employees by hundreds of dollars a month without warning or negotiations failed to gain adequate support.
The board of trustees has voted for years to opt-out of a state mandate that would otherwise require municipal employees to pay a certain percentage of health care costs. Municipalities are permitted to opt-out of the law in order to develop custom health care payment plans.
The law, known as the Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contributions Act, caps the amount of money public employers can pay toward health care costs. The law allows for employers to use a monetary "hard cap" on their costs, which requires employees to make up the cost over a set amount; use a 80 percent/20 percent split in costs, with employees covering 20 percent of costs. The law also allows public employers to opt out of the requirements on an annual basis. The options aren't required to be negotiated with collective bargaining units.
A governing body choosing to opt out of the law must do so with a two-thirds vote, or five out of seven trustees in Bloomfield Township.
Since the law was enacted in 2011, the township has traditionally opted out of the caps, while at the same time keeping the healthcare costs to the township relatively flat, according to the township's health care consultants with Manquen Vance.
Consultant John Vance said township employees currently pay a monthly premium for insurance of about $8.40 a month for a single person, and $16.60 for a family. However, single employees must pay a $2,000 deductible, and $4,000 for families, before any coverage begins.
Several residents speaking during the public comment portion of the meeting pushed the board to forgo opting out of the state law and require employees to pay higher premiums. Several carried homemade signs that read "No Opt Out!," "Pay Your Fair Share" and "No New Taxes!"
Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie took issue with the signs and sought to clarify the issue.
"I hear so much and see these signs here that say 'pay your fair share,' but I will tell you and I've said it all along, that health care is about utilization," Savoie said. "When I look at what our health care costs were in 2010, and we are 17 percent higher today, and the national average is 78 percent increase in that time.
"I've heard people say you only pay $17 a month for health care, and I went back and looked this weekend at what I pay, and I'm up about $9,000 this year for me and my family... when you look at what everybody pays outside of what people focus on, which is the $16 premium, the health costs are considerably higher than what is being purported out there."
Vance said using the state's 80/20 percent split would increase monthly premiums for single employees to $153 and families to $441. Under the hard cap option, single employees would pay $196 per month and families would pay $658 per month.
Employees would still have to meet the same deductibles under both increased premium options.
The board voted 5-2 to pass a resolution to opt out of the state law, with trustees David Buckley and Dani Walsh voting against the opt-out resolution.