County Enacts 80/20 Health Cost Rule

At its Dec. 7, 2011 meeting, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners gave final approval to a resolution stating that the county will comply with Section 4 of the state’s Public Act 152 of 2011, also known as the “80/20″ rule regarding health care costs. Initial approval was given at the board’s Nov. 16 meeting.

On Jan. 1, 2012, public employers like Washtenaw County will be prohibited from paying more than $5,500 for health benefits annually for a single employee, $11,000 for an employee plus spouse, or $15,000 for family coverage. However, the law allows a public employer, by a majority vote of its governing body, to choose another option: to pay not more than 80% of the total annual costs of all the medical benefits plans it contributes to or offers its employees and elected public officials.

When the board initially passed this resolution on Nov. 16, it stated that collective bargaining agreements entered into by the county on or after Sept. 15, 2011 must comply with the 80/20 rule. Five of the county’s 17 bargaining units, representing about 95 employees, do not yet have agreements with the county for 2012-2013. Those employees would be subject to the 80/20 rule, which will place more responsibility on employees for the cost of health care.

However, on Wednesday the resolution was amended – on a 9-2 vote – to change the Sept. 15 date to Jan. 1, 2012. Voting against the amendment were Alicia Ping (R-District 3) and Dan Smith (R-District 2). Both commissioners indicated that it wasn’t fair to other bargaining units who had met the Sept. 15 deadline. County staff said the change simply gives the administration more flexibility in trying to reach agreements with the unions before the end of this year.

The units that haven’t accepted concessions are those representing the prosecuting attorneys, the prosecuting attorney supervisors, attorneys in the public defenders office, supervisors of attorneys in the public defenders office, and AFSCME Local 3052 representing general supervisors. During public commentary at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, county prosecuting attorney Brian Mackie spoke to the board, saying that it wasn’t appropriate for some commissioners to imply that the five remaining bargaining units are negotiating in bad faith. He said there is nothing wrong with the way that they’re negotiating, and noted that two years ago, the prosecuting attorneys had been the first of the county’s bargaining units to agree to pay for a portion of their medical insurance.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]