"When they allow a talk show host to play them like a two-dollar banjo, they demonstrate what kind of backbone they'll bring to the job later on, if we elect them. After they get elected will they continue to allow Jeff Crank to put a nickel in them and wind them up every Saturday morning?"

Barry Noreen, former columnist, Colorado Springs Gazette

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Plus One Bad for Taxpayers, Families


Several weeks ago, it was brought to light that Citizens Project, a left-leaning local advocacy group is pushing the council to adopt a “plus one” health benefits package which would allow city employees to add a person to their city health insurance policy.

Several council members and supporters of the change suggest that this is not about extending same-sex health benefits to city employees – an idea that was shot down several years ago after an outcry from a conservative community. Given that these advocates say this is about fairness to all employees and not about extending same-sex health benefits, let’s take a look at a few of the facts which suggest otherwise:

*A strong proponent of the change, Councilwoman Jan Martin said, ”I think it’s important for this city to demonstrate to the community that we believe that everybody is equal when it comes to benefits from the city.” Councilwoman Martin seems to be using this issue as a way to effect social change in our community. That’s fine, but understand that she is doing this to advance a social agenda that includes the city legitimizing homosexual relationships – at least as it relates to city benefits.

* Councilman Scott Hente, agreeing with Martin, said that instituting this change would send the “right message” to businesses looking to locate in the city. Hente said, “I think this does a lot to try to attract jobs to Colorado Springs because I think it sends a message about our acceptance…This is not so much a social issue with me as it is a business issue.” Oh really? Acceptance of what? Acceptance of a business issue or acceptance of a lifestyle?

*Barb Van Hoy, Executive Director of the liberal Citizens Project, said that the plan will “help Colorado Springs begin to catch up with the rest of the state and nation in expanding employee benefits to diverse families, including gay and lesbian families.” There. She said it. Van Hoy was making reference to Bill Ritter’s signing a bill into law earlier this year extending same-sex health benefits to state employees (also costing Colorado taxpayers more money).

Given the statements of Ms. Van Hoy and Council members Hente and Martin (all supporters of the plan) is there any doubt about why this proposal is being put forward? While proponents and other city leaders say this is about “fairness” and “a better community,” Ms. Van Hoy laid it out for all the citizens of our fair city to see. Make no mistake, this issue is not being brought up because a few city employees have sick siblings who they would like to get covered under the city policy. You see, city employees with sick siblings don’t have the political clout to get a change like this. This is plain and simple social engineering.

Hente and Martin may not remember but it was less than three years ago that the people of Colorado rejected a measure (Referendum I) by a broad margin that would have legalized same-sex domestic partnerships. Also on the ballot was Amendment 43 that defined marriage decisively as the union of a man and a woman only in the Colorado Constitution.

Worse yet, this feel-good proposal comes at a time when the city of Colorado Springs can ill afford it. The city of Colorado Springs is self-insured when it comes to health insurance. This means that the city assumes the risk of health insurance for its employees rather than insure through a third-party insurance company. Any increase in the age, health or lifestyle risk of the overall pool of employees will increase the cost to the city and, thereby, you, the taxpayer.

The city wouldn’t dare offer a “Plus Smoker” policy – allowing any city employee to grab a random cigarette smoker who lives with them to append themselves to the city health insurance policy. Doesn’t this, by their definition, suggest Colorado Springs is not “accepting” of smokers? So why would the city choose to increase its insurance risk by allowing anyone who lives with a city employee – be they an elderly parent, a brother with a pre-existing health condition, a nephew with a drug habit – or anyone else who would increase the risk of the city employees insurance pool. The only reason the city council would increase the risk is to use this change to make a political statement about homosexual relationships. Otherwise, it doesn’t pass the common-sense test.

Most private insurance companies don’t allow “Plus One” on a standard group insurance policy for this very reason – it increases their cost. Actuarial tables continue to show that those between the ages of 25 and 55, married in a monogamous relationship, continue to be the lowest risk to provide health insurance. Opening city insurance to speeding nephews, elderly parents, and non-committed relationships (heterosexual or homosexual) will increase insurance costs for the self-insured city of Colorado Springs.

City employees, already facing a health insurance premium increase of 5 to 25 percent, could expect greater increases in their premiums if “Plus One” goes into effect – but heck, at least Jan Martin, Scott Hente, and many of the social engineers that reside in Colorado Springs business community will feel better about themselves.

Several years ago, Colorado Springs City Council made a similar left turn inspired by those who spend a lot of time and resources advancing homosexual rights. At the time, Council voted to provide same-sex health benefits to city employees. In 2003, after great outrage in the community, Council voted to rescind those promised benefits to city employees.

Council has an opportunity to do the right thing now. If they are bent on providing “Plus One” (same-sex) health benefits to city employees, they should refer a measure to the city ballot and allow voters to decide whether, in an economic downturn, this is a good idea. By doing this, they will not provide benefits to city employees only to have them snatched away by a future, more conservative, city council. Are council members interested in advancing the beliefs of the citizens of Colorado Springs or their own social agenda? Their actions will speak louder than words on this issue.

Expanding benefits to city employees (benefits which are not available to most private citizens of Colorado Springs) in the middle of an economic downturn is a bad idea, made even worse by the ulterior motive so thinly veiled by the proponents.

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