Debate Recap/Health Care

We had the MCTV/Eagle Tribune debate last night, and I would like to thank both outlets for providing the opportunity for debate. We were asked to provide a question and my submission dealt with the exploding cost of municipal health care. As far as what is important for Methuen (and most municipalities) health care costs and how we deal with them in the future is second to none as an issue. Methuen currently spends about ten million dollars per year on health care, with double digit increases threatening our ability to properly fund other municipal services. And my opponent in this race, while answering this question, pointedly said that he had expertise in this area, and recommended that the City of Methuen consider becoming “self insured” in health care. He also recommended that as part of this program we consider “catastrophic coverage”, which would be “inexpensive”. The problem with his reply was that the City of Methuen is already “self insured”, with “stop loss” coverage that is in no way “inexpensive”. The point here is not to score debating points, but to highlight the fact that a critically important part of our budget is so fundamentally misunderstood by a candidate for Mayor. In January the next Mayor will begin negotiating with our municipal unions on the parameters of next years health care plan, and the results will be critical to the FY2011 budget. I successfully negotiated a health care plan this year that saved taxpayers $1.2 million dollars, and with forecasts calling for a ten percent increase in health costs in Massachusetts next year the next Mayor will need to be ready to hit the ground running.

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