Though not everyone is enrolled, whether Mayor
"I'm sorry some councilors probably don't agree with me or probably are upset that I'm even talking about this," she said.
"But I think we need to take a look at that because this isn't a job that we got elected to do. It's a public service appointment by our constituents. It's all nice and good to get benefits, but when times are tough, if we're not allowed by statute to get them, then there's some money there that needs to be taken a look at," Vigil Coppler added.
"So, there you go," said Vigil Coppler, who often challenges the status quo. "I'll just leave it there, but I think it's something that the council needs to take a look at. ... If they wanted elected officials to receive benefits, they would've said so."
The city declined to disclose which elected officials are enrolled in the city's health insurance plans, which they have decision-making authority over.
"We will not be able to provide [The New Mexican] with information regarding the specific health insurance plans being used by individual council members and Mayor," city spokeswoman
Because the city is an insurer, it is a "covered entity" under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, she wrote, adding covered entities cannot disclose "Protected Health Information," which includes the names of beneficiaries.
"So we cannot disclose specifically which councilors are insured or not," Chacon wrote.
Webber did not respond to questions about whether he is enrolled in the city's plans or whether the practice should continue for elected officials.
At least three city councilors said they are enrolled in the city's plans.
"She's been there like, 16 or 17 years years," he said.
Asked whether councilors should be eligible to receive benefits, Abeyta was somewhat noncommittal.
"That's a good question," he said. "Yeah, maybe because we are part-time councilors, maybe it shouldn't be a perk that we offer to councilors."
In a follow-up phone call, Abeyta said councilors -- some of whom are donating a percentage of their pay to stand in solidarity with employees who have been furloughed -- should be able to be on the city's health insurance.
"The more I think about it, if that's something that will continue to attract people to run for office, anything we can do to get more people to participate," he said.
"This allows people who are not individually wealthy or retired or have other sources of income to be able to take those leadership positions in the community," she said.
Cassutt-Sanchez, who was elected last year, said her family was on Medicaid before she enrolled in the city health benefits.
"My husband is self-employed, so unfortunately we've been pretty ravaged by COVID," she said. "This is it, you know? This is the health insurance for my baby. That's key for me."
"I work at my councilor job full-time and to have health insurance benefits is reasonable," Lindell wrote in a message.
Villarreal said having health insurance benefits is a human right for workers, regardless of whether they are elected.
"Advocating for taking away anyone's health insurance benefits during a pandemic is frankly immoral," she wrote in a text message.
Vigil Coppler said in an interview she wasn't promoting an idea but questioning whether "the ordinance allows for benefits."
"I believe it's important for the city attorney to issue an opinion as to whether that's allowable or legal," she said. "I don't know what else to say about it. We're not employees, and she did indicate that it's a stipend. Most people I know that have a stipend [don't get] any benefits. But if the city's looking for ways to save money, I think that opinion is important."
The city is projecting what its finance director has called an "unprecedented"
"Having health insurance is a necessity," he said. "I mean, it was a necessity prior, but having it in times like now, it's a necessity because if you are one of the unfortunate community members that gets or contracts COVID-19, it is going to be an undertaking to get your health back in order, and without health insurance, it can really put somebody in a financial grave."
"Since we are in a public health emergency, also known as a global pandemic, I would be reluctant to change the ability of councilors to access this benefit when some may have no other option," she wrote.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.
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