Monday, December 11, 2006

Tunnel Vision and Health Insurance

Greetings, it’s that time of the year. Time for cutting down and decorating Christmas trees, building snowmen, drinking eggnog, snowshoeing (if it would snow), and nomination papers for local elections. I’ve got two sets going here for candidates and I thought if I’m going to be doing this, I better start becoming more aware of what the issues are going to be out there. I admit, I’m much more in tune with what is happening at the state level then the local level. So, having a bit of time at the computer today, I started looking at what was out there for some of the declared City Council candidates.

My first stop was Kent Monte’s blog ( I was attracted to the thread on Union Contracts that was started last week Monday (12/4/06). The gist of the discussion is that personnel costs are the largest portion of the City budget and how the City Council has little influence on the negotiation of those contracts. One of the big parts of the labor costs is for health insurance. What a surprise! In reading the 94 postings (as of tonight) that responded to Mr. Monte’s posting, it was obvious that the majority of those participating in that Blog would be in favor of pulling health insurance or at least reducing the benefits of the City employees. After all, “I don’t get dat kind of benefit from my employer. We gotta pay a lot for our health insurance, so should dose city employees”. Oh ya, and the City Council should also get the State Med/Arb. Laws changed, because that’s the biggest road block in being able to screw over the City Employees. These folks actually believe that all of the problems that the City of Oshkosh faces would be solved by reducing the benefits of the City employees. Oh and the service we would get would be fine after that. Exactly what kind of employee are you going to have willing to work for the peanuts these folks are willing to offer. Here is a thought from one Labor Chick to those bloggers.


Health insurance and the skyrocketing cost of this benefit to employers is probably the biggest challenge facing every employer in this country. Look at the problems being faced by Ford and GM….it’s about benefits that the companies can no longer afford to pay for. What was one of the reasons that Federal Signal moved the Leach plant out of Oshkosh---cheaper health insurance in Canada. There is example after example that I can come up with that shows that health insurance is the biggest issue facing the middle class of this country. Unfortunately, instead of facing up to the issue and trying to work to find a solution, many folks look at their neighbor with the attitude, you have something I don’t have, if I can’t have it, you shouldn’t either. “I work for Bemis and I have to pay more for my health insurance, if you work for the City, so should you.” Instead of this selfish point of view being exhibited by the posters on Mr. Monte’s blog, I’d suggest that we work together to find a solution to the Health Insurance crisis. In the State of Wisconsin, several groups, including yes, the AFL-CIO have developed proposals to start looking at a solution. Mr. Monte and his followers might do a little research on that as a solution to the problem. Just go to the Wisconsin AFL-CIO website ( and click on the box about the Wisconsin Health Care Partnership Plan. This will tell you more about this idea. This is not Universal Health Care (aka Hillary Clinton). This bill would be a start by making health insurance available to those who cannot get their own health insurance (either because of economics or pre-existing conditions). One of the options would give individuals the opportunity to buy into the same health insurance pool that State Employees participate in. There are also discussions to offer local governments this opportunity. Last December, the Winnebago County Board voted to support the AFL-CIO plan, knowing that it would save money with their employees. Perhaps the City Council could also add their support to this plan.

Instead of embracing these ideas, many middle class workers listen to the big business endorsed concept of Health Savings Accounts. All these do is switch more of the cost to the worker, and give those who make more money a better opportunity to get better health care. It doesn’t do anything about the juggernaut that the Health Insurance industry has created. This is why the Health Insurance industry supports the candidates who are against reforming Health Insurance and push the HSA’s. These are not the answer folks.

Bottom line, it’s time for middle class workers to stop being selfish and work together to change the system. Whether you are working in a union represented position or not, you can support the concept of Health Insurance reform. Wisconsin could be the first state to accomplish this with all of our support. We were a front runner on the issue of Worker’s Compensation, let’s show the country that we can be innovative and fresh.