MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

May 31, 2013

Health care premium hike inevitable


— Muskogee city councilors should not be faulted for voting to pass increased health care costs onto city employees.

The world is a costly place.

No one enjoys an increase in the cost of health care. But sometimes it is necessary.

Most of us realize that.

Some will fight it.

Muskogee firefighters are not pleased with the rate increase — 18 percent starting July 1.

We agree that 18 percent is a pretty hefty increase.

But, we also know the alternatives are not pretty, either.

Many citizens — the ones whose homes, lives and property firefighters have sworn to protect — have lost jobs, had wage freezes or had their pay cut back during the recession.

All this while the cost of benefits continues to rise.

The firefighters’ union leader says the increase will eat up any raise they get this year and next year.

That may be true.

But many people are not getting raises — the very people who are paying firefighters’ wages with taxes.

A union official says the firefighters can find insurance at a better rate.

That’s every employee’s choice.

No one is forcing the firefighters or any other city employee to have the city pay most of their health care insurance premiums.

Health care insurance is an employment benefit. Any employee can decline it.

If any city employee can find an equal — or better — insurance plan that costs less than the city’s plan, snap it up.

The councilors are doing their job by deciding where to spend limited funds.

The only way to offset the rising costs would be to cut services to all citizens.

The firefighters — and, we assume other city employees — don’t want the rate hike.

But, taxpayers don’t want to see even more city services cut back, either.