County Board Health Care Savings Committee Begins Review of Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/8/2010 4:58:18 PM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) – The Westchester County Board of Legislators Special Committee on Health Insurance Savings held their first official meeting this past Saturday to begin reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic policy that the County can provide taxpayers long-term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage. Chaired by the Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), the committee reviewed its action plan, timelines and future meeting dates. “We had a very productive meeting setting out our work plan to accomplish the research, stakeholder input, professional insurance input, and financial input to be able to make recommendations to the Budget & Appropriations Committee by the end of March,” said Legislator Myers. 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 system that would work best for Westchester County. The work of the Committee has been divided into different phases:

 

The first phase will request information from stakeholders and conduct interviews from the following agencies:

 

  • Human Resources
  • POMCO
  • District Attorney’s Office
  • Members of the County’s Judiciary
  • Union Officials

The second phase will analyze data on revising health plans and costs savings:

 

  • Distribute criteria for change plans
  • Solicit input from health insurance providers on price, coverage, plan design
  • Evaluate best options in terms of cost savings and benefits choices
  • Solicit public and employee information

The third phase will be the final recommendations presented to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. The special committee will hold meetings on over the next month and will provide final cost-savings recommendations in March 2010. “In recent years, health care costs have been rising unsustainably,” said Board Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The committee has committed itself to finding savings by identifying opportunities 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.”

 

Over the last few days, however, the co-chairs began their due diligence and made official inquiries to the Administration asking for key documents pertaining to the current POMCO health insurance plan. In a letter sent to the county’s Finance Commissioner Anne Marie Berg, the committee requested information such as descriptions, summary of benefits, demographic statistics on current enrollee’s in the program and the administrator’s service agreement. As of today, the Committee has not received the requested information. A letter was received from the County Executive’s office saying that they were initiating a ‘full scale review of the health insurance plan’ and would forward information ‘upon completion of such review”.

 

“Taxpayers need real long-term savings,” said Chairman Jenkins. “The County Board is going to act timely and responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Legislator Burton Honors Peekskill Resident At Black History Month Heritage Celebration

2/12/2010 9:13:50 AM

Westchester County Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining) presenting this year’s annual Black History & Heritage Month’s “Unsung Heroes” award to Martin McDonald of Peekskill during a reception for the honorees.                      Photo Credit: County Board of Legislators staff

(White Plains, NY) -- Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Westchester County Board Vice-Chairman Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon), Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining) and Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) were joined by their colleagues and local community stakeholders, clergy, business leaders and elected officials to celebrate their annual Black History & Heritage Month Celebration program last night during the business meeting.  In proclaiming February as Black History & Heritage Month in Westchester County, the County Board of Legislators celebrated the outstanding contributions of Black Americans.  The event highlighted local ‘unsung heroes’ from across Westchester, who have done an exemplary job promoting the remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.  Peekskill resident, Martin McDonald, nominated to receive the honor by Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining), was joined by a select group of residents throughout the county who were recognized for their tireless efforts and contributions in their communities.

McDonald, the advisor for a black male mentoring program known as Project Earthquake, strives to instill integrity, disciple, honor and respect in youth black men by building their desire to become healthy, positive productive citizens in our society.  Project Earthquake offers personal support to young men to help counteract the forces that contribute to academic failure.  They stress the importance of academic success, as well as social codes of commitment to family, personal independence and strong moral character.  “Keeping with our theme this year, ‘Living the Dream – Leaving a Legacy’, I’m honored to have shared this special event with a resident within my community who truly represents the best and brightest within the African-American community in Westchester.”

What’s Happening at the County Board: Week of February 15, 2010

Board & Committee Meeting Preview: Items for Discussion

2/12/2010 5:04:39 PM

 

 

Monday, February 15, 2010
Office Closed – President’s Day
 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 

9:30 AM
Housing & Planning —Hon. Bill Burton, Chair; Contact: Barbara Dodds (995-4429)
Federal Grants for the Urban Consortium: CDBG, HOME, ESG, etc.

 

1:30 PM
Legislation —Hon. John Nonna, Chair; Contact: Melanie Montalto (995-8620) & Betsy DeSoye (995-3277)
Local Law to amend Chapter 863 of the Laws of Westchester County in order to provide consumer pricing protection
 

 

3:30 PM
Special Committee on Health Insurance Savings — Hon. Lyndon Williams & Hon. Judy Myers, Co-Chairs; Contact: Steven Bass (995-5482)
Discussion with the District Attorney, Pomco representative, Jennifer Zando and the County Finance Department – Commissioner Anne Marie Berg and Kathy Egan from Benefits

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

 

9:30 AM
Government Operations, Efficiency & Savings —Hon. Mike Kaplowitz, Chair; Contact: Tara Bernard (995-6297)
Continued discussion on 2010 State Legislative Package

 

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

* 11:00 AM
Auditors Meeting
Agenda TBA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats should stop saying no to 15% contribution plan

2/16/2010 4:16:39 PM

 

 

The following ran in The Journal News – Community View on February 13, 2010.

 

Submitted by County Legislators Jim Maisano, Gordon Burrows, Bernice Spreckman & John Testa

 

The Republican members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators applaud the recent columns by the Editorial Board and Phil Reisman calling for immediate passage of County Executive Rob Astorino’s proposal for 400 nonunion county employees to start contributing 15 percent to the cost of their health-care benefits. We also appreciate that the board’s Democratic leadership was challenged for their delays and roadblocks on this important legislation.

 

We wish to emphasize that the Republican county legislators endorsed this proposal two weeks ago. We are ready to vote for this legislation immediately and are troubled by the board’s blatant delaying tactics.

 

Recent elections demonstrate that voters want real change from our elected leaders, and they want it quickly. This was the clear message when voters selected a new county executive last November. This message is coming from Democrats, Republicans and independents. People understand we are still confronting an economic crisis. Many of our constituents are struggling with unemployment and high taxes. They are looking for decisive action to address their concerns.

 

We had hoped the new county executive and new board leadership would finally spark legislative action to reform the Westchester County government. Yet, remarkably, in our first opportunity to come together in a bipartisan way by passing the 15 percent employee health-benefit contribution, saving more than $1 million per year in the county budget, our board has done nothing but create obstacles to its passage.

 

We are deeply concerned about our county’s financial situation. We face a possible $60 million shortfall in the 2011 county budget, which our board will review in only nine months. Immediate action must be taken to reduce spending and everything must be on the table. These cuts may be difficult, but we have no other choice. We can either cut spending or raise taxes. The priority for the Republican county legislators is to make aggressive spending cuts immediately to avoid a property tax increase in 2011.

 

We strongly support the proposal to have county employees contribute 15 percent of their health-care benefits. In most county governments and many municipalities across New York state, employees do contribute to the cost of their health care. In the private sector, it is a long established standard procedure. Only two weeks ago, Dutchess County voted to require employee contributions. In the City of White Plains, employees hired after April 1 will contribute, and in the City of New Rochelle, employees contribute 18 percent of their health-care benefits and have done so since the 1980s.

 

If this sounds like an important issue, it is — and it is too important to be a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. This reform will save $1 million and sends a message that business as usual is over. In the past 10 years, health-care plan costs for county employees have skyrocketed from $67 million to almost $150 million per year. The cost of a family plan is more than $22,000 and for a single plan nearly $8,000.

 

The impact of these costs on Westchester’s budget is devastating, and we cannot keep raising property taxes to balance the budget. Property taxes are already too high. The proposed legislation will save money, while making a bold statement that we are committed to reducing the cost of the county government.

 

Unfortunately, the county executive’s proposal has hit one snag after another. First it was watered down when the Democratic leadership offered an alternative plan that covered relatively few employees. Then the proposed legislation was sidetracked to a newly created committee. In government, the quickest way to take the steam out of any proposal is to bury it in a "committee" — or in this case, three committees.

 

These delaying tactics are nothing more than different ways of saying no: no to a newly elected county executive, no to an eminently fair and fiscally responsible plan, and no to the taxpayers of Westchester. Frankly, if the Democratic legislators cannot even support this $1 million cut to the budget, how will they ever make the more difficult cuts to deal with the upcoming $60 million shortfall?

 

Elected officials everywhere need to start listening to their constituents. We must reform government, find new ways to provide services more efficiently and cost-effectively, and reduce wasteful and unnecessary spending.

 

Let’s show we heard this message, stop the delay and come together for a unanimous vote on this proposal. We are ready to vote for the 15 percent medical benefit contribution immediately. Who is with us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westchester Lawmakers Consider Call For Moratorium On Con Ed Tree Cutting Program

 

What:

 

 

The Westchester County Board of Legislators Committees on Environment and Energy will have a joint meeting discussing Consolidated Edison’s recent tree cutting along electric transmission line corridors.  Both committees will, also, address legislation calling for a moratorium on Con Edison’s tree cutting program and a revision of the State’s Public Service Commission requirements

 

 

Who:

 

 

- Energy and Environment Committee Members
- Representatives from Con Edison

 

 

When:

 

 

Monday, February 22, 2010 at 3:00 pm

 

 

Where:

 

 

Westchester County Board of Legislators Committee Room
148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor
White Plains, NY

 

 

Why:

 

 

Recent tree cutting and clearing along electric transmission line corridors has raised many questions and concerns among homeowners and municipalities that border these lines.  Con Edison operates and manages the transmission lines, which span from Yonkers to Yorktown.