You have to admit, she does things her way.
Houston District A Councilwoman Helena Brown, whose lone “no” votes against city spending have differentiated her from the rest of the 17-member council, also is an outlier as an employer: She is the only council member to hire an entirely part-time staff that gets no health insurance or other benefits.
“The Council Member and all her staff were offered benefits but declined, choosing to opt for their own health care coverage in the private sector where it is more cost effective for employees, and let us not forget, for the City too!” according to a statement from Brown’s office.
Brown would have been eligible to receive the benefits after she has served 90 days on the council, technically a part-time job that pays $55,770 a year. Employees pay about one-fifth of the health insurance premiums, with the city paying the rest. The cheapest of the plans calls for a city contribution of more than $200 a month per employee.
Five of her seven staff members are paid hourly to work 39 hours a week, which under city employment rules allows her to classify the employees as part-time. They are, therefore, ineligible for vacation days, sick days, pension benefits or city-subsidized health insurance. The other two Brown staffers work 22 or fewer hours a week.
Well, I’m not going to deny that rising health care costs are a long term financial issue for the city. But neither am I going to agree that requiring your staff to fend for themselves, without any kind of subsidy or assistance, is an acceptable solution. Seems to me that despite her office’s claims about how going the all-part time route will enable them to attract a “more diverse skill set”, this is likely to get people who fall into one of three groups: Those who can get health insurance via a spouse, or parent if they’re under 26 (thanks to the Affordable Care Act); those who are wealthy enough to buy insurance on the individual market, at least until the insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act come on line in 2014; and those who rely on publicly-funded health care via Medicare, Medicaid, and emergency rooms. I’ll leave it to you to count up all the ironies involved.