Vancouver council votes against paying toward dependents’ health insurance premiums

Proposal would have gotten members in line with nonunion employees




The Vancouver City Council nixed a proposal Monday to pay for 15 percent of their dependents’ premiums.

In a 5 to 2 vote, they denied a proposal by Councilor Jack Burkman that council members pay 15 percent of their dependents’ health care premiums, bringing them into line with what nonunion employees pay, and what city officials asked — unsuccessfully — the city’s unionized workers to do this summer.

“I think we can show stronger leadership than we did,” Burkman said Tuesday. “I’m committed to bring it back before council so we can continue discussion.”

The council agreed to look again at the topic during a workshop before the end of the year. The savings to the city would be just over $3,500 in 2011.

When Burkman brought it up during a meeting on Oct. 18, some members of the council seemed to voice their support of the plan. Four of the seven council members use the city-provided benefits, including Burkman, whose wife is also on the city plan.

Councilor Pat Campbell, who uses the benefits, said then he was interested in the idea. Monday, he joined Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilors Jeanne Stewart, Jeanne Harris and Larry Smith in voting down the plan. Burkman and Councilor Bart Hansen, who does not use city benefits for his wife or two children, voted in favor.

“I got to thinking: Maybe it would work for me, maybe it would not work for others,” Campbell said. “Several of the people initially were kind of blindsided by it.”

Campbell said he didn’t see the proposal “going anywhere,” and thought the council’s Salary Review Commission could tackle the topic instead.

The city offers two health plans, one through Blue Cross and another through Kaiser Permanente — paying 15 percent of a policy with one dependent will cost $83.63 a month on the former and $62.34 a month on the latter.

City officials this summer asked unions to pay 15 percent of their dependents’ benefits as well, which was expected to save $1.1 million next year — those negotiations did not result in any increased premium payments. The city’s unionized workers already pay 10 percent of their dependents’ premiums. The city pays full premiums for employees; dependents are not fully covered.

The council did ask that the Salary Review Commission not give them pay increases on their part-time salaries this year. Mayor Tim Leavitt earns $2,200 a month; Mayor Pro Tempore Larry Smith gets $2,000; and the rest of the council is paid $1,781 a month for their part-time public-service positions.