Being the rich retired Houston Police officer that I am, I wanted to thank Mayor Parker for recognizing my ability to lease a brand new Rolls Royce automobile. The folks in the Obama Administration kept telling me I had a Cadillac; but I never for a moment considered jumping all the way up to Rolls Royce.
I’m fortunate to have a parking place in my driveway for that new Rolls Royce, the one Mayor Parker thinks I can afford. It would have been nice to actually see the vehicle; much less drive it. Lucy and I didn’t get to pick out the exterior paint, leather or cloth seats, Bose surround sound audio system or even decide on the payment plan; I guess when you buy a Rolls you take what you’re offered.
The car falls into the category of “invisible”. It’s in my driveway, you just can’t see it; much like the house near the golf course that never got built, the one we call “invisible”.
The folks who own that property intended to erect a fine structure, even had an electric service line brought to the edge of the forms filled with sand where the foundation was to be poured. That was several years ago and you can still see the outline. We call it the invisible house; joking that they must have used some kind of fancy material; they really did build the house, we just can’t see it.
No, I’m really not talking about buying a new car; just keeping my health insurance package from last year in force until I’m eligible for Medicare when I turn 65. We got our official notification from the City in the mail this past week; that and Bradley Olson’s Houston Chronicle article made for a sleepless night.
Our health insurance package was one of the reasons I stuck with the City of Houston until I reached retirement. As costs in the medical field increased my wife and I accepted our monthly premiums would go up; that’s part of life. We’d been told to expect a bump from our current rate of $500 a month to $750 a month, give or take a couple of dollars.
That was until Mayor Parker found the City was underfunded by about $7 million and decided to solve the shortage by laying it off on retired city employees; more specifically, on retired employees who were not yet eligible for Medicare.
The City of Houston had been responsible for 64% of my retirement health insurance while I picked up the rest; but as of May 1st the City will only pay 52% to ease the pain of being in the hole $7 million. Mayor Parker just signed a piece of paper at city hall and, as of May 1st, my monthly payment goes up to $1179 a month, about $700 more than I’d been paying. How come the rules changed?
I can understand the need for reasonable cut backs at all levels, to include retired employees; but this doesn’t even come close to equitable. Active employees have a binding contract where the City’s responsible for 79% of health insurance cost; no attempt was made to have that binding contract renegotiated due to extreme economic conditions brought about by a recession.
Why then would the Mayor believe it permissible to change the terms of a previous agreement? Granted, it’s not a binding contract like the one with active employee unions; but agreements have to do with honoring promises made over the tenure of employment. I’ve held up my end of that agreement; but I forgot, the City has no honor.
The City is targeting a specific group of employees to square up the budget shortfall, a penalty based on age discrimination. I’m old enough to be retired; but not old enough for the federal government to pick up the tab and so I’m just another extra expense the City hadn’t planned on.
I was prepared to make the jump from $500 a month to $750 a month; everyone’s health insurance costs are going up, why should I be exempt? I wasn’t thrilled to be forced into the extra expense; but it wasn’t entirely unexpected and so I have no squawk with the City there.
I do have a legitimate gripe when the City changes the percentage of coverage without that change being uniformly spread across the rest of their employees, retired or active. Mayor Parker, I just got up at 4 in the morning trying to figure out how to get this bad taste out of my mouth; any suggestions, Your Honor?