Metro Council defers changes to its own health plan - WSMV Channel 4

Metro Council defers changes to its own health plan

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Metro Council decided to indefinitely defer an issue Tuesday that was sure to make some council members squirm in their seats.

The council had been set to drastically reduce its own health insurance, but the motion was set aside, possibly for good.

Council members are paid about $15,000 a year for their service to the city. It's a lot of work for little money, which has always been the argument for keeping in place a generous plan to offer them health insurance for life.

The idea of reducing council health insurance had come up in the past and proposals have even come forward, but it had never gone to a third and final reading.

Some council members said the issue needs more research - a professional compensation study perhaps - and so it died.

In a year during which the council passed the highest property tax increase in Metro history, Councilman Phil Claiborne said he felt taking a hard look at the council's own expenses was simply the right thing to do.

"We are making good on that promise. We are looking for the ways to cut the costs going forward, and we are starting with ourselves," he said.

Claiborne's bill would have allowed lifetime health insurance for council members who serve a minimum of eight years, but even then the premium does a flip-flop.

Now, the city pays 75 percent of the premium for life, but the proposal would've had the council member pay 75 percent. That would put the council in line with other Metro employees' programs.

"The present value of the current program is between $9 million and $10 million," Claiborne said.

Some council members said the issue needs more research - a professional compensation study perhaps - and so it died.

Claiborne said Tuesday's decision sends the message that council members believe they are an elite body that deserve more benefits for their part-time job than full-time Metro retirees.

"It sends a message we're a selfish group that really doesn't care about the rest of the government," Claiborne said.

Other council members said the lifetime benefits encourage minorities to run who might not run otherwise and that the council shouldn't be in a hurry to make changes.

"I just think we need more information first," said Councilman Fabian Bedne.

Councilman Walter Hunt questioned cutting council benefits when state officials won't cut their perks, such as per diems.

"We should look at how we can make it equitable for everybody. And if we need to cut it out, cut it out. I have no problem with it," Hunt said.

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