“Requiring employees to have some skin in the game is one way to hold down rising health care costs. It’s time for elected officials and public employees to understand that.”
You might be surprised at who said those words.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker not only uttered similar words, but he followed through on his campaign promises after being elected. His reward? Democrat legislators went into hiding in an effort to prevent the vote, union members stormed and occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol for months, and Democrats collected enough signatures to force a recall election.
Republicans in Iowa have previously proposed that state workers contribute $200 a month towards their health-care insurance premiums. Iowa is one of only six states that still pays 100 percent of healthcare costs for its employees.
One might think the quote above is from National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Daily Caller, Glenn Beck, The Wall Street Journal, or The Iowa Republican. It’s not. The quote above isn’t from Scott Walker or Governor Branstad either. Shockingly, the quote above is from none other than the editorial board of the Des Moines Register.
A liberal editorial board espousing a position that Republicans have tried to advance for years symbolizes a significant shift in public opinion due to tight budgets and a lagging economy. It also shows just how out of touch labor unions and some Democrat leaders have become on the issue. Less than a year ago, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal proudly proclaimed, “We are Wisconsin now.” He was right, the collective bargaining changes made in Wisconsin look like they are Iowa bound.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Governor Branstad announced that he and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds will both contribute 20 percent towards their healthcare premiums. Branstad also announced that he has signed Executive Order 78, which will allow all state employees to voluntarily contribute twenty percent of their health care costs.
Branstad noted that hard-working Iowa taxpayers are accustomed to paying for some or all of their own health care costs. He added that for far too long, their tax dollars have also paid for the total cost for state employees’ health care. Branstad believes that the move makes fiscal sense, but it also puts some skin in the game for state employees. “When you contribute to the costs of your health care, you’re more likely to make better decisions for your health,” Branstad stated.
This week, elected officials in Polk County will begin paying a portion of their health insurance premiums. While Polk County officials are only contributing $15 to $25 a month, the fact that they are now paying a small portion for their healthcare plans shouldn’t be overlooked. Most counties in Iowa already require employees to contribute towards their health insurance costs, but the fact that the state’s largest county is moving in that direction gives Branstad and Iowa Republicans a green light to require all state employees to contribute towards their healthcare plans when the state enters into its next collective bargaining agreement with workers next year.
Even though Branstad’s executive order is only a voluntarily program, Lt. Governor Reynolds announced that all department heads have been asked to begin contributing 20 percent of the cost of their health care costs. She added that they have had an outstanding response. Branstad will now have a major advantage when he sits down to negotiate with the unions in the summer of 2013.
While the Branstad initiative is likely to come under fire from union leaders, it’s going to be difficult to criticize Branstad and Republicans for a voluntary move that local Democrats have said is necessary for local government workers.
Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly, a Democrat, told the Register last week, “All you need to do is read the paper and listen to the news. We all have to pay our fair share in terms of insurance costs.” Between statements like that, and the position of the liberal editorial board of the Des Moines Register, union leaders in Iowa must now realize that the time has come for workers to begin to contribute to their health care plans. Their tired old partisan attacks on any Republican proposal will no longer work.
The timing of Branstad’s move toward a voluntary contribution couldn’t have been better.
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