Will the Honorables do the honorable thing?

Adam Searing wonders why members of the General Assembly haven't put their own special access to healthcare on the table as part of all their hand-wringing and belt-tightening. Lead by example, he says. I agree.

There’s been lots of talk this week about the shortfall in the state health plan. State employees (who didn’t get us into this mess) might be required to pay 30% premium increases and have even higher cost sharing and fewer benefits. General Assembly members received a briefing for over an hour yesterday about the plan. There was plenty of discussion about which groups were costing the state plan the most money and so on. Not discussed at the briefing was the following option: Eliminate the special state health plan access members of the General Assembly enjoy.



I understand the principle of what you are saying, but since overall compensation for legislators is already woefully low, I don't think it should be decreased. In fact, I think compensation should be increased to $60K plus per diem and healthcare. That way, anyone can afford to serve in the legislature.

I agree completely with SPLib

We should pay them like professionals and stop pretending this is a part time job. It isn't.

We would never suggest that a private company yank the rug out from under a class of employees by simply ending their insurance to save money. Why would we do it to underpaid elected officials.

Suggesting they pitch in the same percentage of their premiums as state employees isn't out of line, but stripping them of the benefit is.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

It is a full time job

if you do it right.

Hell, my mother on the city council spends over 40 hours a week studying, attending neighborhood meetings, taking care of constituent services, attending other "official" meetings and attending other functions. I imagine it is much the same for many of these folks and I could guess those who are self employed wind up earning less b/c there is less time to spend at their career jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


And even if it were a part time job, good luck finding a full time job that's OK with you ducking out for a few months every year for session. The longer we refuse to pay our legislators real salaries & benefits, the longer we'll have a legislature full of the independently wealthy and retirees.

I read something the other day about some legislator trying to limit the number of per diems legislators can accept, and it struck me the same way. It makes great rhetoric, but in practice its only real impact would be driving ordinary citizens away from serving in office.

And I agree with Betsy.

Now...if we were talking about CONGRESS...ooooh....that's another story.

Stan Bozarth

I would love to run for legislature

But as was stated before it would be real hard to find an employer to give me the time off to do it and now you want to take away the health insurance?

not out in Republican Hell

You got that right. All they would have to do is google me and see my Green Party connections and I would be doomed.


This is the point entirely. It's not about them. It's about everyone they represent.

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding!

I know quite a few of them

and I think they do care about everyone they represent. In this current climate, though, providing health care to everyone they represent is going to be even tougher. Denying our legislators health care coverage certainly isn't going to make that happen any faster. Requiring they participate financially at the same levels other state employees are required to makes quite a bit more sense than denying them coverage.

You made it about them, when you agreed with Searing's proposal that they no longer have access to a benefit that they more than earn.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

I know quite a few of them too

And all of the ones I know have other jobs. With healthcare.

So let me restate Searing's proposal. They get to keep their deal as long as it's also available to every other citizen of North Carolina.

How's that?

We obviously know different people in the legislature

I imagine most of the people who serve in the legislature who are using that insurance either have no other insurance plan or have a preexisting condition that could exclude them from getting coverage under another policy. So, in effect, you and Searing are proposing that we deny health care coverage for our otherwise unemployed, disabled and older legislators. If they receive coverage from another source then they aren't motivated by the loss of this benefit anyway.

The common sense approach is to require that they participate financially to the same degree that other state employees participate.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.


I don't know what Searing is proposing. I just restated what I am proposing.

Everyone in North Carolina should get the same deal as they get. Having access to healthcare should not be dependent on having a job or on having had a job. Period.

You're right

My thinking evolved.

Might have overstated the case

We are, after all, the Health Access Coalition -- we're not interested in eliminating anyone's health benefits. In fact, our report recommends not eliminating coverage for elected officials.

But it should be noted that the General Assembly has carved out a special provision for themselves that is not available to any other state worker, full or part time. No matter how briefly they serve as legislators they have a lifetime right to purchase coverage through the State Health Plan at full cost. While that doesn't cost the state money, it does seem unfair.

And while legislators might care about the people they represent they have done little, in good times or bad, to expand health coverage. NC expanded insurance to more children, which is great, but the GA set the income limit where Blue Cross wanted it. And after two years of fighting the GA passed a high risk pool, but at most that will cover about 10,000 people.

Adam's suggestion comes mostly from frustration that the GA is taking for granted that there are no other options other than hiking premiums and cutting benefits -- options that will make insurance unaffordable for more state workers.

Said another way

From: Many of we the people

To: The Honorables

You have healthcare.
We don't.
We want what you have.
You work for us.
If we don't get what you have, we will take away your job.

Special access no--but access, yes

Betsy is absolutely right here. It is inappropriate--in my view, a political cheap shot--to try to politicize legislators' basic access to the state employees' health care plan. The very good folks at the Health Access Coalition ought to have higher standards for their tactics.

Responsible legislating is not a part-time position, no matter who pretends it is, and the only way that an individual who is neither independently wealthy, retired with great benefits, or coasting at work due to the prestige advantage to his/her employer of employing a legislator, can afford to serve is to have health care insurance available through his/her "real job", legislator.

Frankly, as I believe Betsy also noted, the same applies to many local government elected roles.

Let me emphasize that affordable health care access for everyone is a passionate bedrock commitment for me. I've argued long and loudly for it. It's just wrong that we do not already have universal coverage in our country, and I hope and expect that achieving that goal will be President Obama's second major goal this year (after the economic rescue package is passed).

In my opinion, however, the tactic of ridiculing state legislators' access to state employees' health insurance plans is also wrong.

Dan Besse

You're probably right.

At some point, ridicule of policy makers for whatever one considers their failures becomes appropriate. Doing that in a nice way is tricky, because ... well, it's hard to see ridicule as nice.

So how do you push the point? How do you "force" policy makers into action? How do you get the issue moved up on on the public agenda?

It takes a village. Extremism has a role.

In fact, I'd say that this particular extremist idea has spawned some useful discussion.

How to keep it going ... that's trickier.