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Letter: Town 'Deserves Honest, Informed Discussion of Health Care Costs'

By Frank Farricker

 

The first thing that all those who have seen as the most damaging thing to hit Greenwich since the British invaded in 1777, is “where is the report”? I don’t know where I am more insulted, that the First Selectman got conned for $7,000 of our tax dollars for this 2 page bad cut-and-paste job, or that he is trying to use this thin gruel as the meat of a major change in Town policy.

Quite simply, this report is the kind of document that would be, and has been, laughed out of serious society. It consists of two wide-margined pages of fully unsourced assumptions, and lots of filler spreadsheets which were actually provided to the creator of this report by the Town itself, whose numbers then increased to get to the result he seeks. It is a document that the report writer stated to the Greenwich Time was “designed to scare a little bit”.

The assumptions in this “report” are, frankly, just about made up out of whole cloth. For example, the report claims that with or without Obamacare, all healthcare will rise in cost by an exactly level 12% a year. In its face this is odd, considering that an informed opinion would have indicated that almost all experts, from all sides of the political fence, see healthcare rising no more than 6% on average, with higher rates in 2013 and steadily decreasing through 2018. And I defy anyone to find a health-care economist who thinks that the insurance market will remain exactly the same whether or not Obamacare is repealed. Yet the First Selectman has done just that, and he has staked his personal reputation on that one, convenient anomaly.

Leaving aside amounts that don’t add up, such as the mysterious 4.4% increase the “report” cites in 2014 – for a device tax that is not paid by the insured, and for other unsourced items that still don’t total 4.4% (and the fact that the report continues to compound increase all numbers off this amount), almost 60% of the alleged $30 million cost to Greenwich is based in the so-called “Cadillac Plan” tax scheduled for 2018. Now I know that the First Selectman is somewhat contemptuous of the fact that the Obamacare law was 2,000 pages long, as if this really mattered to its effect on Greenwich. However if he had even done a cursory review of the plan, he would have found that this tax is designed to take effect in 2018 so that municipalities, unions and others with these kinds of plans can have ample time to change their plans as to not fall into this category, in order to have a wider “leveling” of plans nationwide. Many municipalities in Connecticut and around the nation are already doing excellent work to bring these plans into line with the limits while not endangering service or promised benefits. Yet the First Selectman takes this item so far from its intent to actually broach the concept that the Town may renege on health insurance for Town employees and retirees. It makes one think that the whole “report”, presentation and rollout of its conclusions are just designed to cover up some other plan of action.

Greenwich, like all municipalities, deserves a real, honest and informed discussion of health care costs. We don’t need the chief executive of the community citing tired Tea Party talking points, along with a report that feels more preordained than informative , in which to base a discussion. And I think if the First Selectman wants to cut benefits to the thousands of active employees and retirees who depend upon their health care benefits, he should just be honest about it. Instead, it’s another fit of “blame the Democrats”, in this case President Obama and his signature health care law, as before it has been Gov. Malloy, heck Peter even blamed me for his poor response to the 2010 storms. But this time, it has gone too far. Thousands of current and retired Town employees entered into compacts with the Town over the past decades in which their service was paid for, in part, with promised health care. I have in my family, as I suspect many readers of this article do as well, family members who worked for years for our Town who are now faced with the prospect of politically-motivated cuts. Who knows what the future will bring in respect to our health care costs, but we know less today than we did before this embarrassing $7,000 report was issued. I think the First Selectman should hit the reset button, stop spreading the line that unsourced, copied papers represent facts, sit with the BET and other informed bodies in Greenwich and get some facts for the people who elected you. Stop playing politics with our health and well-being. It’s not right.

 

Frank Farricker

Cos Cob

* Mr. Farricker is chair of the Greenwich Democratic Town Committee.

Jonathan Michals October 18, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Thanks for this Frank. If everything you say is true then uh-oh. Also people worried about health care cuts might start this regimen: exercise more, eat right, stop smoking (if you smoke), and seek some inner peace. That will increase chances of personal health care costs falling. Catastrophic events will require good health insurance coverage of course.

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