Stand Up, Be Counted And Sign The Petition - And Response (3)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Re:  City Council Approves Domestic Partners Benefits On Final Reading 

I am certainly appalled that this passed on second reading. I am most disappointed in Jerry Mitchell in supporting this.

I will definitely sign the petition to overturn.  How do we get in touch with Mark West to let him know we want to be part of this petition?

Residents of Chattanooga, if you are against this, stand up, be counted and sign the petition. Remember who voted yes for this and reward them appropriately at election time. 

Suzanne E. Keith
Hixson 

* * * 

Suzanne,  

Thanks for your comment which expresses the views of tens of thousands of Chattanooga residents.  Yes, they are appalled and shocked that the vote went as it did, some for moral reasons, some for fiscal reasons, but all for valid reasons.   

But the good news is that you and every other Chattanooga citizen has the opportunity to take this issue out of the political realm, where elected officials oftentimes weigh out future political ambitions or loyalty to a mayor's agenda against values that they might hold or have once professed.   

Under the city charter, if citizens disapprove of an ordinance that is passed, citizens can: 

draft up a petition (DONE), 
secure approval of that petition (DONE), 
and then in 14 days collect sufficient signatures to place the ordinance they oppose on the ballot in a referendum to allow the voters of Chattanooga to decide (DOING).

This simple process returns the power to We the People - which is the purest form of democracy and activism.  Yes, you can decide directly on the issue which not one councilman or councilwoman or mayor ever spoke about during their campaigns to gain your vote earlier this year.   

So here's what you do.   

Download the approved petition and our instruction sheet.  Also check out the fact sheet about the ordinance.  And then simply sign your name to the petition (only if you are a Chattanooga registered voter).  Then mail the form back to the address at the bottom of the sheet.  Voila!  You've just weighed in.   

But if you want to do more, then get your family, friends, church members, club members and others to sign the petition with you.  That way you can turn your one vote into many votes and thus multiply your voice.   

This Suzanne, is the foundational form of our government.  Citizens in a peaceful and civil manner expressing their views, making a case for their views, and then letting their neighbors and friends decide and weigh in as well.  And if they disagree that's okay.  We just don't need to be disagreeable.  Rather, we should always be respectful.  This is their city too.  And their opinion is just as valuable as yours or mine. 

But at the end of the day, if you and others are successful in securing 4,500 qualified signatures in 14 days, then you have just given the voters of Chattanooga the right and duty to vote on this in August 2014.   

So, back to your original question.  How can you get in touch and be a part of the petition?  It's simple.  Go to www.itsyourvotetn.com and get started.  The clock is ticking... 

Mark D. West
Citizens for Government Accountability & Transparency

* * * 

I find it very hard to believe that Mark West and his posse would even waste their time is pursuing such a trivial issue.  Not only are they wasting their own time and money but those of the Chattanooga taxpayers as well. 

I believe the cost of putting the domestic partner issue on the ballot are more than the actual cost of the expenditure of the actual number of employees that will actually utilize the benefits. While the HR Department with the city has made some initial conservative projections, as a person who works in the insurance industry, I can assure you that with a group the size of the city of Chattanooga, the actual utilization will be far less, possibly only a handful of employees. 

The facts page on Mr. West’s website is riddled with errors and falsehoods about domestic partner coverage. For example, they want you to believe that the city if funding the full cost of premiums paid for coverage when in fact even for married couples, dependent coverage is mostly funded by the employee (contributory coverage) with only a portion of the cost paid by the employer for dependents. Additionally, typically the employee/employer split on most plans is approximately a 60 percent employee cost and 40 percent employer cost. With domestic partner coverage, there is also imputed income tax implications to the employee for the employer funded portion of coverage. Yes, the employee has to pay federal income taxes on the cost of coverage provided to the domestic partner so do you really think any employee in their right mind is going to pay income taxes unless they have to?  Married spouses do not have to pay federal income taxes on spouse benefits. 

Furthermore, the fact sheet attempts to lead readers to believe that an employee can just freely sign up any person and their dependents on to the plan which if furthest from the truth. There is a 12 month waiting period for coverage and a verification process to confirm that domestic partners are in solid “vested” relationships such as owning a home together or have a financial interest together just like any other married couple would have. Having worked for a local employer that offers this provision, believe me the scrutiny is strict.  

Additionally the sheet implies that employees can just simply lie about the relationship for coverage. Really? Do we want to imply that employees of Chattanooga are all crooks? The city already has an ethics policy in place and has the right to fire any employee that has been untruthful on their job application or any other document. Any insurance carrier that offers dependent coverage even without domestic partner benefits provisions regularly performs dependent verifications audits. Some annually or when requested by the plan administrator. 

Another falsehood in the document attempts to lead readers to some companies like FexEx and UPS dropped spouse coverage because of the addition of domestic partners increased this cost to the employer so high. This is simply not true. First of all no sources are cited. Additionally, from the information I was able to obtain, this is due to a loop hole in the Affordable Care Act that allows employers to exclude coverage for “working spouses” so any spouse or domestic partner not working would still be eligible for benefits under the existing employer’s plan. Just because a greedy employer is taking advantage of a legislative loophole is no cause to blame it on domestic partner coverage. 

After watching the actions of this group over the past month or so, I am very disappointed that a “self-appointed” group of people that claim to be watch dogs for the general population is themselves so wasteful and falsely sounding the alarms. 

People please take the time to understand the issue and read the facts before listening to a bunch of “alarmists” and making rash decisions. 

Bill Johnson

* * *

Mr. Johnson writes about how difficult it would be to cheat to obtain insurance coverage. He may be confusing the efficiency of private sector programs with the inefficiency of government run self-insured programs. 

Though the plans accounting issues occur through an insurance company, the particulars of "insurance for live-ins" will be overseen by the same administration that instructs brush truck drivers to pickup one brush pile and ignore the one next to it. City Human Resources, charged with monitoring the intimacy issues, will not be making home visits to check on who's sleeping where, with whom or for how long. Fraud will be easy and the city's history for prosecuting cheating, theft and fraud is already worse than abysmal. 

Most city employees are fine upstanding people who behave admirably, but not every person is trustworthy. Need proof? Go to the city's website and read the audits that identify employee fraud issues. I challenge Mr. Johnson to find one employee who served jail time or repaid money or
supplies stolen from the city.

Mr. Johnson argues only "a handful" of city employee live-ins will apply to get government subsidized healthcare.  A handful is five people. So, he hypothesizes that of the city's 2700 employees, only five people will apply for boyfriend or girlfriends benefits?  I can hear Insurance Actuaries across the globe laughing out loud at this prophesy. Unlike the Obamacare website,
the gateway to this Chattanooga government assistance will be wide open and waiting to deliver a benefit that is primarily funded from our property taxes.

Mr. Johnson also fails a reality check when he speaks about the minuscule cost of providing city healthcare for domestic partners and their dependents. He seems to believe the city's healthcare program is paid in-full from the annual premiums. While we would all wish for that, that isn't reality.  The multi-million  dollar city clinic, fitness center and pharmacy did not spring up from  last years premiums. His grasp of health costs is oddly flawed, considering he claims to have worked in the insurance industry. I think Mr. Johnson may not work in the claims department or accounting. Perhaps he has never seen the hospital bill after a preterm baby graduates out of a 2 month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Perhaps he has not viewed the bills for a bone marrow transplant. It's easy to dismiss or belittle costs when one has no knowledge of the cost or you are fighting to be on the receiving end of a new entitlement.

Gregg Juster



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