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Local Editorials

Editorial: Lawmakers should right the wrong when it comes to health insurance

Last month an investigation into Iowa lawmakers’ health insurance revealed more than 100 legislators are paying hundreds of dollars less than they should for their state-provided health insurance. A couple of those lawmakers are right here in our backyard in Newton.

For the past three years, Sen. Chaz Allen has apparently enjoyed the perks of $20 per-month family plan. Newly elected Rep. Wes Breckenridge is now also taking advantage of a $20 per-month family plan. For perspective, a non-union employee should be paying $333.80 per month.

It’s quite the bonus for a part-time job.

Sen. Amy Sinclair, whose district covers part of southern Jasper County, is also enjoying the $20 per-month advantage. Rep. Greg Heartsill, who also represents parts of Jasper County, pays more than the others for his family plan — $333 per month — but still $111 less than a non-union employee should pay.

Heartsill says he’s paying the maximum amount of the premium he’s allowed and also says House Republicans have “been trying to correct this matter (leading by example, I might add) for the last six years. However, the Senate Democrats, who were in control at that time, refused to take up the issue.”

While it has been made abundantly clear the impact of these health insurance perks, little action to correct this problem has been taken. Moreover, the hypocrisy of collective bargaining revocation while enjoying union-negotiation insurance premiums smacks of indifference.

It’s time for our legislators to make it right.

Senate File 230 calls for higher contributions, which would require legislators to pay the 20 percent rate that would match non-union premium payments. It has yet to pass the Iowa House — where House Republicans are leading by example, according to Heartsill. Further, the impact of the proposed legislation wouldn’t begin until January 2018.

This outrageous practice of enjoying non-union plans at union prices needs more immediate action. Further, Iowa lawmakers should be required to repay the state and provide documentation of such repayment. This could be easily arranged on a payment plan that wouldn’t be financially burdensome to our legislators.

Until last year, both union and non-union state employees generally paid no health insurance premiums. Gov. Terry Branstad pushed state employees to share the rising cost of health insurance. Union employees now generally pay $20 a month, while non-union employees pay 20 percent of the health plan cost.

We think it’s time for our part-time state lawmakers to share in the rising cost of health insurance as well.

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