The benefits monster is alive and well in Middle Georgia

April 17, 2013 

Three Middle Georgia communities are grappling with an issue that impacts every city and county in the country: Health care cost.

In the new consolidated government of Bibb County, one of the transition committees dealing with human resources is trying decide options: Should present employees be allowed to keep their defined benefit plan or should that plan be frozen as of Dec. 31? Then, along with new employees, they would be entered into a defined contribution plan under the new government.

In Warner Robins, city leaders are struggling, as is everyone, with rising health-care costs. The proposal that would have raised employee contributions in a variety of areas from co-pays to prescription medicine was tabled Monday. The issue, though, will not go away. The city could save $242,855.

In Jones County, commissioners decided to cut health benefits entirely of its deputy coroners without notifying the coroner, Jerry Bridges Sr., who admits he’s “mad as all get out,” over the decision. Bridges has notified the county that Bridges Funeral Home, owned by the coroner, would no longer pick up bodies and store them for the county.

Jones County commissioners may quickly find out that the other funeral home in the county or the one in closest proximity in Macon would be glad to take over that business, however, it might be at a considerably higher cost. People don’t die on a nine-to-five schedule.

All of the counties are doing the right thing by examining their benefit structure. Each municipality, actuarially speaking, moves closer to insolvency as their workforces age. While it is fiscally prudent discussion, it is also a political decision, which, as in the case of Jones County, has the potential to backfire.

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