|By Patricia Mazzei, The Miami Herald|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Gimenez's decision to stop trying to block
While abandoning that request could result in job losses and service cuts, county negotiators hope the gesture will make union leaders more willing to adopt a more restrictive health-insurance plan that could save
"The reason we're doing this is we deeply appreciate 199's desire to negotiate with
Among the perks are an extra
"If we could get closure on some type of understanding on wage increases moving forward, I think we're going to get where we need to be on health care," Madtes told Williams.
An agreement with one union -- especially with
"You can't just have one union do it and the rest balk at it," he said at the negotiating table.
Gimenez has proposed replacing one of the county's three healthcare plans -- the low-end one -- with a new option, called "select," that offers a smaller physician network but more-affordable premiums to cover spouses and children. Dependent premiums would be about 20 percent lower than for the next-best plan, according to the county, to allow lower-wage workers to insure their families.
Seventy percent of physicians in the existing network would be included,
Employees at the public
With the select plan, county workers would not have to pay premiums for their own coverage.
But as part of Gimenez's proposal, they would be responsible, for the first time, for premiums for the middle-of-the-road plan, an HMO. Individual employees would have to pay
Co-pays would go up for emergency-room visits and for brand-name pharmaceutical drugs, to give employees an incentive to use urgent-care centers and generic brands,
"Our current co-pays for emergency room and our current co-pay for urgent care is exactly the same:
Emergency rooms should still be used for emergencies, she added.
Gimenez's administration found a more willing negotiating partner in Madtes, who has flown with the mayor to tour
Madtes took over his union's reins in January and participated in a labor healthcare committee that proposed ways for the county to save money on insurance. He has pushed for a permanent committee to review healthcare costs and said that if his union agrees to the insurance-plan changes, then the
"We don't want people losing their jobs," he told the county last week.
Gimenez plans to implement the healthcare changes for non-unionized employees, including department directors and county commissioners' staffs. That would amount to a
Though the unions were slated to get back their pay perks anyway, voluntarily withdrawing the issue is the county's attempt to try a softer negotiating tack as the end of the budget year approaches. Labor leaders could still propose to extend the concessions themselves, though that appears unlikely.
County commissioners must sign off on a spending plan after two public hearings next month.
Gimenez already dropped his initial request for a 10 percent salary cut across the board, which was met with resounding labor opposition.
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