Hard Candy – Volleyball OK, Health Insurance, Not So Much

“Can we sell the lights at the volleyball courts? Can we put them on Craig’s List? Wouldn’t that help with the insurance? Why doesn’t he give up his volleyball lights?”
This is why I love El Cap.
Let me back up.
At Gulfport city council last week, Vice Mayor Liedtke – who I am starting to suspect attends more than one tea party – used local office to speak against Obamacare. He suggested that the city make full time employees part time to offset the costs. Bear in mind this is the same man who asked the city to light volleyball courts downtown, at a hefty price tag. This is what elicited El Cap’s suggestion that we sell the lights and buy healthcare for city staff: Mr. Liedtke’s suggestion that the health and well being of people who likely only keep the job so they can afford to see a doctor matter less than volleyball tournaments.
Never mind that other states have found that “Obamacare” costs less than they imagined or that these people could possibly qualify for Medicaid – and who do you think pays for that? – if we took away their healthcare. Forget all that. It’s just a heinous thing to do.
It’s wrong to demote people to punish them for our president doing something with which you fail to agree. As the Vice Mayor says much with which I agree, this pains me to both feel and say, and yet I do: he has no clue. And here’s why:
Used to be, working for government was a soul-sucking job that degraded your self-worth. But it was soul-sucking job with benefits. In exchange for living your life in a fishbowl, under constant vigilance from the residents, your boss – who, by the way, had likely risen to power with little thought for his or her mental health – and the news media, you had cool benefits. Benefits like cheap insurance, a pension and tuition reimbursement.
Now? Well, many cities – Gulfport included – dropped tuition benefits years ago. Staff still lives in a fishbowl, unable to take so much as a free iced tea from a local diner lest they be accused of graft. The police aren’t even supposed to get cookies at Christmas, and I tried to tip a deckhand at the marina for filling the boat’s gas tank – common practice at any non-municipal marina – and he recoiled like I’d offered to give him hepatitis. Health insurance costs, thanks in part to smaller staffs wrought by tax cuts waged on small government by Republicans, have skyrocketed for smaller cities like Gulfport. I would guess that those on our city staff who have held onto the city’s health insurance do so out of desperation and noble attempt to stay off Medicaid.
But hey, Vice Mayor, who cares about them? They’re just people, right? Their fault for not getting higher education and making better money. That would jive so much more with me if I weren’t in possession of a master’s degree and still not getting affordable healthcare.
Demoting loyal employees from full to part time to save a few bucks? How very Wal-Mart of you, Mr. Vice Mayor. How very elitist. Someone I spoke with – and I’m sorry, I don’t recall who – had this to say about your idea:
“This forces people to get a second job, so they’re home less with their kids, and neither job gets them healthcare. It doesn’t solve the problem.”
The spring mayoral race had people talking about how Mayor Henderson accepting Democrat money made things partisan. I disagree. Mayor Sam may have accepted money from the Dems, and his opponent, the Republicans, but neither of them ever wore their beliefs on their sleeves like you have, Vice Mayor. You have brought national politics to a local level in a way that disgusts me. We are all different makeups here, and I never thought too much about it until you showed us all your chip on your shoulder about making health care accessible the least of us.     
But I’ll put that aside to offer an idea. It isn’t mine, but I like it, and I think the wacko leftists and the crazy right wingers can maybe agree that it could solve some problems.
In Clearwater, the city had a brilliant solution to rising healthcare costs, and it wasn’t to demote staff to fewer hours to save a few bucks. It was to start an employees-only healthcare center where city staff can see a city-paid doctor for minor things. For free. That helps because it cuts the number of claims employees make on their health insurance policies, which keeps premiums lower.
Of course, Gulfport doesn’t have enough employees to make that work. But if Gulfport, South Pasadena, Treasure Island and St. Pete Beach all pooled their resources, maybe that would be a real solution to rising healthcare costs.
And it would be one we had without making people realize how little some of us valued them.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.