City Businesses Want To Expand Healthcare Costs?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

As a business owner you know fees and property taxes impact the bottom line. The Chattanooga City Council's recently passed ordinance extends healthcare insurance to the "domestic partners" of city employees. Unless your business has no real estate or you do not lease a building, the cost of Chattanooga's employee domestic partner benefits should concern you.  

Your property taxes will be used to fund the highly subsidized insurance coverage provided to the girlfriends and boyfriends of city workers who qualify. If you think this insurance will only be available to a select few same-sex couples, think again.  The ordinance applies equally to heterosexual and homosexual unmarried partners. It also covers the dependents of the partner, even those unrelated to the employee, so long as the employee wishes to claim them.  Statistically speaking, insurance coverage of heterosexual girlfriends and boyfriends will likely far exceed the male/male or female/female partners. 

The special interests that forced passage of this ordinance would have you believe that those who oppose the ordinance hate homosexuals or are religious fanatics. Contrary to that rally cry, the petition effort is not about hating people who are gay. It's about putting this matter before the taxpayers who pay the freight. They deserve the right to vote this one "up" or "down." 

Furthermore, not wanting to give married health benefits to unmarried people does not mean you hate homosexuals or heterosexuals. It's about not creating another unfunded entitlement during a time of insurance and healthcare crisis. As the Unaffordable Care Act unfolds, there could not be a worse time to enlarge the number of healthcare enrollees that taxpayers support. 

If you view this ordinance from strictly a business perspective, it tracks back to your bottom line. This is not a Chicken Little wake up call. If you need a live example of how poor elected official decisions are manifested, take a look at your annual storm water fees. The need to address those issues didn't crop up overnight. It took years of misspent dollars and ignoring ditch maintenance by the prior mayor and his appointees. They subtlety and creatively led our city to owe millions of dollars to satisfy the long overlooked federal water regulations.  

For business owners, salaries, wages, and healthcare costs are among the biggest budget expenditures. If employee healthcare expenses skyrocket, revenues go down. With city government the results are different. If the city's employee healthcare expenses go up, elected officials look to property owners to make up the difference. As a taxpaying commercial property owner, that chicken comes back to roost on your front step.  

How much will it cost to extend healthcare benefits to all the unmarried live-in partners of city employees? It's a good question. The Berke Administration has estimated the entire cost probably won't exceed 1 percent of the total benefits budget. Their estimate is $168,000/year.  Please keep in mind that the city has a self-insured insurance plan. There are about 2,700 employees. We don't know what it will cost. When asked for a specific cost, the city human resource director had to admit he really did not know.  We do know it will be significant and it will go up. 

Knowing what you know about healthcare costs, do you think $168,000/year would cover the costs of adding girlfriends, boyfriends and their dependents to city insurance coverage? In a self-insured health plan, one very ill person's bill could easily consume the total estimate in short order. 

If you think the ordinance is a good idea for the city and you are also moving to provide insurance coverage for all your employee's "domestic partners" and their dependents, do nothing.  However, if you think the City Council members who voted for the ordinance (Jerry Mitchell, Carol Berz, Moses Freeman, Yusuf Hakeem, Chris Anderson) made a bad decision, lend your support to the petition drive. Go to www.itsyourvotetn.com and download copies of the petition. Place the petitions on the counter in your business and encourage city voters to sign it. Since the city of Chattanooga passed this, only city of Chattanooga registered voter signatures can put it on the ballot for a city referendum.  

If you can help or have questions, call 499-1284. Citizens for Accountability and Transparency will arrange for petition pick-up at your place of business. There must be 4,500 registered voter signatures by Dec. 3 to qualify for a place on the ballot. They seem to be fighting to protect something you ought to care about.

John Pierce
Chattanooga

Kudzu Incursion On Scenic Highway

I don't know if I am the only Lookout Mountain resident to notice that Scenic Highway is about to be one and a half lanes. Kudzu is encroaching over the guard rail and onto the road. In many places you can no longer tell where the road ends and the guard rail begins. A number of new and older drivers don't need to be guessing about where the road ends. Tommy Dickinson (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more on issues than personal attacks. (click for more)

Bradley, 24, Charged In Death Of Boy, 3; Child Had Numerous Injuries After Left With Boyfriend; Mother Was In Workhouse

Justin Dale Bradley has been charged with criminal homicide in the death of a three-year-old child, who was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday and later died. Police said Dakota James Arndt had numerous injuries over his body. Authorities said Bradley, 24, is the boyfriend of the child's mother, Brianna Kwekel, who was in the Workhouse at the time. Ms. Kwekel was serving 48 ... (click for more)

Helen Burns Sharp Asks Recovery Of Legal Fees In Successful Black Creek TIF Lawsuit

Helen Burns Sharp, citizen activist who sued to try to stop a $9 million Black Creek Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and won, is seeking to have her legal expenses paid by the city and the developers. Ms. Sharp said in a court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka are $74,427 thus far. Chancellor Frank Brown ruled in favor of Ms. Sharp, saying the Sunshine ... (click for more)

Worley-Powered Vols Clobber Utah State, 38-7, In Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee, trying to snap out of the doldrums of four consecutive losing seasons, started its 2014 campaign in fine fashion Sunday night before a season opening sellout crowd of 102,445 that endured a heavy rain story 30 minutes prior to kickoff. And senior quarterback Justin Worley, who missed the final four games in 2013 after undergoing thumb surgery, was ... (click for more)

Lookouts Reach Southern League Northern Division Playoffs With Doubleheader Win Over Smokies

The Chattanooga Lookouts are now playoff bound after sweeping a double-header against the Tennessee Smokies  to clinch the Southern League North Division for the second half of the season. The first game of the double-header was backed by a masterful gem of a game thrown by the starter for the Lookouts, Steve Smith (W, 3-2). Smith dominated the Smokies' lineup from top ... (click for more)