Westchester County Board Chairman Jenkins Outlines Plan For Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/3/2010 6:02:38 PM



(White Plains, NY) – Today, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) outlined his plan of forming a special committee of the Board to analyze and make recommendations on the fairest and most cost-effective way for the County to provide quality and affordable health care access to its employees at reduced costs.  “The Legislature fully supports the concept of employee contributions,” said Board Chairman Jenkins. “However, in the search to pass off much-needed tax relief to residents, the County Board must act responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue.”


This Special Committee on County Health Insurance Contributions is charged with reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic way that the County can provide taxpayers long term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage.  The Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont) have been tapped to co-chair this special committee. Williams, a former member of the Mount Vernon City Council, is a Certified Public Accountant and corporate lawyer.  Myers, the former chair of the Board’s Family, Health and Human Services Committee, which tackled critical issues — from childcare to AIDS to saving the Westchester Medical Center – and, currently serves as the Board’s representative on the County Board of Health.  “With Vice-Chairman Williams’ legal expertise and his background in corporate finance, along with Legislator Myers’ activism and advocacy on greater regional planning, inter-municipal cooperation and fiscal discipline, I’m confident that this committee will create a recommendation that is fair and responsible,” said Jenkins.  “It is important during these difficult economic times that we consider all viable options, including employee contribution, putting out a request for proposal for additional & less expensive health plans, pre-tax savings accounts, contribution tiers, and incentives for workers to opt out.”  The Special Committee will be temporary, with its termination happening by March 31, 2010 with a report of recommendations to the Committee on Budget & Appropriations.  A full vote by the Board of Legislators is expected to be taken no later than June 15, 2010.  There will be no additional compensation for legislators serving on this committee.


The County Executive presented the Board with a plan to have non-union managers, commissioners and directors make a 15% contribution towards their health care coverage.  This plan, which would only affect 386 out of over 5,000 Westchester County employees and provide a meager savings of roughly $560,000 for 2010; however, upon thorough review, was found to be over-reaching into county agencies that were not under the County Executive purview and are currently exempt by law, such as Westchester Community College, the County Clerk, the Board of Elections, the Judiciary and Legislatives branches of county government.


An alternative bill was drafted by Board leadership, requiring health insurance contributions for the county’s non-union/non-represented management employees only under the County Executive’s jurisdiction, was due for a vote at Monday’s Board of Legislators meeting, but was recommitted to the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee for additional review.  “Taxpayers need real tax relief and fiscal leadership, not politics as usual with officials playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said Jenkins.  “The goal of this committee will be to have a proposal in front of the Board for a full vote by June.  Our target is to achieve $15-20 million dollars in savings, which will result in real savings to taxpayers -- a sizeable reduction of 3-4% of the tax levy.”


An alternate bill calling for sliding scale contribution for all public employees – drafted by Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) – was being reviewed by the Board’s Committee on Government Operations, Efficiency and Savings,of which Kaplowitz chairs.  This week, Legislator Kaplowitz referred both his bill and the County Executive’s proposal into the Budget & Appropriations Committee ‘in the interest of consistency and efficiency.’  This special committee of the Board will take into consideration both items, as well as any others that Legislators would suggest. Myers and Williams, along with committee members Legislators John Testa (R-Peekskill), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will meet with health insurance professionals and key industry experts to assess and develop a plan that would work best for Westchester County.  “Taxpayers need legitimate long-term savings. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.”