66ºF

City rejects police union's health care trust fund proposal

Negotiators say plan leaves city vulnerable to bailouts

The ongoing fight over public safety health care benefits continued Monday with another lengthy negotiating session between the police union and city.
The ongoing fight over public safety health care benefits continued Monday with another lengthy negotiating session between the police union and city.

Collective bargaining negotiators for the city of San Antonio rejected a proposal from the San Antonio Police Officers Association Monday that suggested the city establish a health care trust fund to pay for the health care benefits for active duty uniformed personnel.

Union officials said the plan would require the city to pay a fixed amount of money each year to cover health care costs. The union would then manage the fund to pay for benefits.

The city's chief negotiator, Jeff Londa, said similar plans have been established in Philadelphia and Indiana. The plans ultimately failed, forcing the city to bail out the trust funds.

"We rejected their proposal for a variety of reasons," Londa said. "Even though an employer might contribute a set amount, if that's not enough, the only thing the trustees can do is raise premiums or cut benefits. Trusts are notoriously slow at doing that and then there are (city-funded) bailouts."

The city has proposed reducing the amount of money allocated for public safety health benefits by bringing active duty health care coverage more in line with civilian plans. The city currently pays approximately $12,000 per year per officer for health care. Negotiators have proposed lowering that amount to $7,000 and have asked officers to begin paying premiums.

Police union President Michael Helle was surprised the city didn't take the offer. He said the union's track record of managing multiple funds worth billions of dollars should give city officials confidence that the organization can manage its own money.

"They failed to look at our track record in San Antonio, and that is that we do manage a lot of different funds and we're very good at what (we) do," Helle said.

Helle said one bright spot from the day's negotiations was that the city seemed open to allowing the union to search for another health care plan that differs from the city's civilian employee plan, but is not a trust fund.