Baker City's health care costs

January 13, 2006 12:00 am

Expressed in the abstract, you might be tempted to think the employees of Baker City are getting a raw deal on their health insurance.

In some cases, employees have seen their deductibles — the amount an insured person pays before the insurance company starts picking up the tab — double or triple. And employees are expected to pick up a percentage of their insurance premium.

It might sound stark, but only because the city was so far behind the times. Higher deductibles and employee-paid premiums are commonplace in both the public and private sector. And especially compared to the benefits offered by many private sector employers, the employees of Baker City continue to receive excellent health benefits.

The changes have paid off, saving the city money on its health insurance.

That doesn't mean the reform is complete, however. The city continues to offer its non-union employees a better deal than its union employees. Better harmonizing the deal it offers all employees would undoubtedly improve employee relations when it comes time to negotiate union contracts. Some private employers even charge highly compensated employees more for the same benefits as the rank and file.

In the long run, skyrocketing health care costs aren't a local issue, they're a national issue.

But by doing what other employers have already done and continue to do, the city will be better-equipped to absorb future health-care cost increases. That's a benefit to both the employees and the citizens they serve.