Addicted To Other People’s Money

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Three minutes. Citizens are allowed three minutes to address the Beachwood City Council at regularly scheduled meetings. This isn’t a Q & A. If the Councilmen deign to respond to the concerns raised or answer the questions asked, it will happen whenever they choose. The agenda designates this as Citizens’ Remarks. The microphone is yours. You have three minutes.

I used to attend every Council meeting. A special entry was added to the City’s agenda, Chamber Report, for me to address Council. But I am no longer the president of the chamber of commerce and I have other ways to spend two Monday evenings a month. I forced myself to attend last night’s (July 19th) meeting.

The City of Beachwood is ready to take a 33% income tax hike. Beachwood would jump from one and a half percent to two. City revenues are down in these tough economic times. The goal is to tax the people who work here, but can’t vote, as opposed to the people who live here and can. I was at the meeting to watch City Council sing and dance.

I had no intention of speaking at the meeting until I saw item 9 on the agenda:

An Ordinance extending a Contract with Medical Mutual of Ohio (MMO) for renewal of health insurance coverage for City employees, declaring the existence of an emergency condition regarding health insurance coverage and further waiving competitive bidding.


I read that paragraph several times. This was easily one of the most ridiculous things I had seen in thirty-two years in the insurance business. Ticked off, I waited for the Citizens’ Remarks portion of the meeting.

I began by clearly stating that I don’t work with municipalities. My interest was strictly that of a taxpayer. I noted that there are no insurance emergencies. The City had plenty of time to get bids from countless other insurers. Anthem? UnitedHealth Care? Aetna? They simply didn’t bother. Why would they? They’ve got us to pay the bills.

As the meeting dragged on, we eventually learned that the City never negotiated with the employees to accept a less expensive policy. The City never negotiated with the employees to increase their contribution. Beachwood hasn’t solicited for bids in years. The Mayor and Council can’t help themselves. They are addicted to other people’s money.

Other people’s money is a common addiction. I was thinking about it earlier yesterday as I was reading an email from Michelle Obama. Yes, I’m on her email list. She and other members of the White House send me emails all of the time.

Anyway, Michelle (she calls me David) wanted me to know about all of the great ways that the new health care bill was going to help my family and lower costs.

So much of what makes this law great is its emphasis on preventive care--right now, too many people aren’t getting the check-ups or the screenings they need to stay healthy. Twelve percent of kids haven’t seen a doctor in the past year. And 59 million adults--and 11 million children--depend on an insurance plan that does not cover basic immunizations.

Health reform is changing that. Under this new law, all new private plans will provide basic preventive services--things like childhood immunizations and checkups, mammograms, colonoscopies, cervical screenings, and treatment for high blood pressure--absolutely free of charge. No copay. No deductible. No co-insurance needed.


Does this mean that America’s doctors will be providing free exams? Will labs dedicate entire months to free blood work? Will pharmacies dispense free blood pressure medications? Of course not. Our medical providers expect to be paid for their time and efforts. Rightfully so. These tests, services, and products aren’t free. Your insurance will pay for them. And you will pay more for your insurance.

Nothing is free save your mother’s love. But when you are addicted to other people’s money, you lose sight of the real cost of anything. There is always someone there to pick up the tab. And eventually the addicts forget that there is a cost. But actions have consequences. Goods and services and not free.

Beachwood, and countless other municipalities around the country, will get a crash course in effective budget management. They may even be forced to make some tough decisions. The new health bill has already begun to force business owners to make tough decisions. The only Americans unaffected are like my email buddy, Michelle, the ones addicted to other people’s money.

DAVE
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