It’s one of many possible proposals for closing the upcoming budget shortfall.
A key option, [Mayor annise] Parker has said, is to increase the share of health care costs employees pay. The city now pays three-fourths, and employees pay one-fourth.
“We have a very generous health benefits plan, even with the changes,” Parker said, referring to premium increases and cuts to benefits made last year. “We could shift more of those costs to our employees.”
Forcing employees to pick up 30 percent of health costs, rather than a quarter, could save the city up to $20 million in the first year, officials estimate. Requiring employees to cover half of health costs could save $80 million.
Melvin Hughes, president of the Houston Organization of Public Employees, said such discussions mean the mayor and council are not considering the people who make the city run. Such an increase would lead many workers to stop seeking care for themselves and their families, Hughes said.
“There’s no way we could accept that. We can’t afford an increase on health care. We do not make that kind of money,” Hughes said. “I understand it’s tight and I understand there’s a budget shortfall coming this way. They’re going to have to manage the money a little bit better.”
This is not the first time city employees have faced this. I’d be pretty unhappy if I worked for the city right now. They may have generous health insurance benefits, but this is a pay cut no matter how you look at it. There are other ideas being explored to deal with the shortfall, but you can only sell real estate once, and the projections are four several years. The city would like nothing more than to reduce its pension payments, but as we well know much of that is not in their hands. One way or another, the next Mayor is going to have to deal with a lot of this.