Hague wants county employees to chip in for health care

All King County employees would pay a monthly health care premium under a proposal introduced Thursday, May 14 by Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jane Hague. Currently, King County employees receive medical, dental and vision benefits with co-pays and deductibles but no monthly contribution.

“As King County looks for ways to cut costs and tighten our belt with the looming budget shortfall, monthly contributions for all employees should be a part of the discussion,” said Hague, who represents Bellevue on the County Council. “If we are going to ask employees to sacrifice, we should do so in a way that is equitable while saving the taxpayers as much money as possible.”

Many other local companies and government agencies require all employees to pay a monthly health care premium. The cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue as well as the state of Washington and Snohomish County require their employees to pay a monthly health care premium. The average monthly amount for these five government agencies is $41.20 per employee.

King County will spend $214 million this year to provide benefits for King County employees and their families. This represents a 9 percent increase from 2008. Requiring county employees to pay the average monthly premium of similar government agencies would save $6.84 million per year. This figure represents the amount of savings for employees only and not family members who are also covered. King County is currently facing a budget shortfall of $50 million.

The King County Charter requires the executive to negotiate all labor contracts for the county. Contracts are presented to the council for an up or down vote without amendment. The proposal introduced by Hague would make it the policy of King County that in addition to the required co-pays and deductibles they pay when visiting a health care provider, all King County employees would also be required to make monthly contributions to cover a portion of the cost of their medical, dental and vision benefits. All future labor contracts would then be negotiated with this policy.