No riot necessary to get a response


This letter is written in response to the editorial, ”Start a riot over Heltzel comment” that was published on Dec. 9 of last year. The Tribune Chronicle Editorial Board’s piece amounted to a generic call for public outrage that fell flat rather quickly in terms of research and simple journalistic integrity.

In a continuation of its now very-practiced habit of alarmist headlines, the Editorial Board encouraged people to be angry over, for some reason, the system by which public employees of the county receive their health insurance. I suppose members of the Editorial Board considered lambasting Commissioner Paul Heltzel and public employees a valid way to end their year, but the Tribune really undercut its own angst by not being familiar in any capacity with how health insurance is administered by Trumbull County government.

Though its words were few, the Editorial Board’s predominant problem for its rant was decidedly severe.

The most glaring error involved the statement “. . . taxpayers already pay 90 percent of the county employees’ health care premiums.” Health care benefits for the Trumbull County employees of this ilk do not involve payments of premiums. And I am not engaging in an issue of semantics or splitting hairs. The more commonly known practice of paying premiums to cover your insurance does not come into the picture, so the Tribune Editorial Board thoroughly discredited itself by railing against something that does not exist.

Let me explain, in brief, how the insurance system for county employees actually works – extremely well. The program is one that is largely self-insured in nature and obligates employees and the employer to make payments into an ”insurance reserve fund” to cover their medical costs and those of their families. For several years of my life this system was how I got my coverage (I am now covered by Obamacare) and without exaggeration I will remark that it was what helped keep me alive.

I also will comment that I doubt anyone working in the public sector of this area appreciates the Tribune Chronicle’s repeated attempts to demonize the procuring of benefits for its workforce as excessive and decadent. People do good work for Trumbull County maintaining roads, working at the courthouse and many other services that allow the surrounding area to function. They deserve good benefits and so do their families.

Splitting 50-50 (between employees and the county) a 12 percent increase in payments into the insurance reserve fund to continue their healthcare coverage is not unreasonable it is fair and an investment in your employees. So enough with the discrimination against the public sector workforce since they pay taxes, too.

For obvious reasons, I felt inclined to respond to the editorial. No prompting from anyone was necessary. Neither was a riot.

Robert Heltzel