“Our plan is extremely rich in its benefits, and that’s part of the reason” costs are rising, said Mary Lou Rizzo, who heads the county’s human resources division. She added that the proposed changes would allow employees to opt-out of health coverage for the first time in two years, and would allow benefits of the new federal healthcare law — such as certain free screenings — to kick in a year early.
Yet at least one union president, Greg Blackman of the Government Supervisors Association of Florida OPEIU Local 100, said he had thought the county would permanently absorb last year’s, 12-percent increase and only pass along this year’s, 8-percent increase.
Blackman added, however, that he will let his union members vote on the health-insurance plan redesign. He predicted that a majority of members will reject the proposal because they do not have dependent healthcare coverage and so would not be affected by the 20-percent hike in dependent premiums.
“The single people will be subsidizing the family premiums, which I don’t really see that there’s a fairness there,” Blackman said. The police union has yet to tell the county if it will bring the proposal to a vote. Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera said the union has asked the county for more information to verify its healthcare cost estimates.
“We walked out of there with more questions than answers,” Rivera said of the PBA’s meeting with the county’s healthcare consultants. “If we’re satisfied with what we get, we will certainly let the members make the choice.”
The county presented the redesign plan to transit and water-and-sewer unions on Wednesday. Fire union members who have a health-insurance plan separate from the rest of the county would not be affected. Non-unionized employees will fall under the redesigned plan.
Three other unions, representing aviation, solid waste and general employees, are scheduled to begin voting on the proposal this week. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 199, which represents some 10,000 general employees, is recommending that its members accept the redesign. In contrast, the AFSCME Local 1542, which represents aviation employees, is not siding with one plan or another.
“I already have people that cannot afford healthcare,” union President Antonio M. Eiroa said. “We’re put between a rock and a hard place.”
Members whose unions reject the redesigned plan will be charged the 20-percent hike in dependent premiums.
AFSCME Local 199 and Local 3292, which represents solid waste employees, will also be voting to do away with the 4-percent giveback — a formality that most unions will have to complete after the budget is approved.