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Home / Articles / / /  Mullen | Social Disease: Why take a stand when you can do a study?

Mullen | Social Disease: Why take a stand when you can do a study?

By Holly Mullen
Posted // April 30,2008 - Mark Crockett placed his hands neatly on the dais in front of him. Then he breathed a sigh deep enough to be heard throughout the Salt Lake County Council meeting room.

Then Crockett, a Republican on the council facing re-election, said: “I love my colleagues here …”

Oh, you just knew it. Here it came, the knife, with that quick little twist straight to the gut.

“I love my colleagues here. And what few things we can do [to solve America’s health-care crisis] I’m interested in doing. I’m interested in expanding health care, especially for children.”

Then Crocket pitched his own little frothy substitute that gutted a proposal to extend health care and other benefits to county employees with domestic partners. Which will give him plenty of cover with conservative constituents in his northeast county bench district come November.

First, the plan before the County Council on April 29 had nothing to do with children. They already have health insurance if one of their parents works for the county. The business at hand was about recognizing domestic partnerships—as 269 of Fortune 500 companies have. That could include families with an aging parent in the house and adult children with disabilities.

But really, in the interest of cutting through the thick political fog, and sugary pronouncements of collegial love, we’re mostly talking about gays and lesbians. We’re talking about politicians who—in spite of a society that is moving right ahead without them—still can’t do what is right and just and economically wise. It was clear as a summer sky in the Wasatch. Four council members chose the right. Five ended up talking with mouthfuls of mush.

It was the second time in nearly three years that Democratic Councilwoman Jenny Wilson proposed a domestic partners’ benefits plan. In July 2005, the talk against Wilson’s proposal was fueled by the fear of Amendment 3—the ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage in Utah. The five Republicans gave emotional speeches about how difficult the vote was (Crockett’s eyes even misted up). Then, they twisted that old knife and voted no.

Full disclosure here: Jenny Wilson is my stepdaughter. And I also wrote three pieces for another Salt Lake City newspaper supporting gay rights as civil rights before I ever crossed paths with Jenny Wilson.

Wilson contended the change would cost the county just under $300,000 to cover employee partners or dependents.

But Crockett decided to float a substitute motion to Wilson’s. He proposed the council staff conduct a “thorough financial assessment of something we might implement in 2009 or sooner if the financial impact [to the county] is minimal.”

Remember, it’s that political year thing again. Why take a stand, when you can do a study?

Then, Crockett proposed if the study determines minimal cost, “we extend benefits to IRS dependents and to a member of a household who has been a member for more than one year. And any adult who receives the benefit would pay the full premium without any cost to the county.”

Crockett then gave a big finish: “This is not a punt.”

Democrat Joe Hatch then pointed out that if an employee has to pay the full premium for a partner, what kind of benefit is that? What kind of economic door presents itself as too prohibitive to open? It’s time, Hatch said, to “recognize the changing nature of the family. There are good, committed families that don’t fall within the traditional definitions of family. We should honor them as the good, committed county employees they are.”

Republican David Wilde called his support for Crockett’s measure the lesser of two evils.” Because either of the two motions on the table, he said, could damage “traditional family values.” His colleague beside him, Republican Jeff Allen, said “values are a rudder to make the right decisions in life.” Allen said he favors “continued support for families. It’s important to support that, and to sustain and encourage [the traditional family].”

What could have been right has died again. There’s an argument around all of this about a social compact that sustains this country, but it was too fine a point for council majority. Sometimes life is fair in the United States; often it isn’t. We subsidize a war most of us oppose. We subsidize gay clubs in high schools, even if we find them immoral. Pick any tax-supported program. You’ll find it just isn’t fair to everyone.

We all subsidize various groups and programs we don’t agree with or wish worked differently. “You don’t want to subsidize domestic partnerships, but I am subsidizing big families as a county employee,” Wilson, a mother of two, concluded. “And it isn’t always fair. But I’m willing to understand that at some point I’ll pay for my siblings’ younger children and your children, too.”

“We’re part of a holistic society. It will be an interesting moment when I look at the large families in the county that we do subsidize and start calling for a head tax.”

 

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 9,2008 at 05:22 Wilson’s comments during the debate reveal a mean spirited ignorance about the nature of family benefits.nnSociety has a vital (literally) interest in children being born and raised successfully into functional adults. Traditional families (husband-wife families) are the way this happens most efficiently in our species. Such families bear a large cost to rear children, in effect these families subsidize the rest of society by raising children that will benefit the larger group. Enlightened societies recognize this and grant family benefits to breadwinners to in some small way lessen the disproportionate cost these families bear for society.nnWhen those family benefits are extended to various other groupings of cohabiting adults the resources available to child rearing families are lessened. nnIn our society children are the most poverty stricken demographic segment. It is short sighted to deflect benefit dollars from the neediest and most helpless segment of society in a misguided stab at PC fairness and justice.nnContrary to her crass assertion Wilson does not subsidize families with more children than she; those families bear most of the cost of rearing their children and subsidize all other members of society with no or few children.nnWilson’s bizarre comment about look(ing) at the large families in the county that we do subsidize and start calling for a head tax” is frankly disturbing. Are forced abortions next? Effective child rearing is difficult under the best of circumstances, policy to make it more so is cruel and shortsighted.nnFamily benefits play a critical role in a healthy and enlightened society’s social policy.nnWhen they are used as pawns in a game of my family type is just as good as yours society will suffer. 2008-05-01 20:30:11.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 coldblooded 75.90.17.156 A7855EEC-14D1-13A2-9F155A87CDCEECCB 9C1B9F58-14D1-13A2-9F0A483FCAB3951E Just wanted to say thanks. We (the Black Monday Society) really enjoyed the article. Also...nice job on the pics Jess......Insignis 2008-05-01 20:45:45.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Insignis 75.162.69.247 A789A5C8-C256-AF4D-8A87721E6298C5F3 87289CAB-F5EC-3C64-62DD67E7989F9F5B Dear Not so Confused,nnAs a devout Mormon, you should already know that non-members will not be as informed to your religious material as you are. So, don’t let that surprise you.nnYour assumptions are incorrect about me. I don’t watch any sports. Can’t stand football, but recognize that it is important to many people. Same with professional fighting.nnMy comments are in regard to the fact that Mormon fighters (people that eschew drinking, bars, etc) are entering establishments and utilizing establishments that are supposed to be shunned by them. Regardless of how you attempt to explain it away, it remains hypocritical.nnConcerning Mormon fighters, and the fact that you state that not all Mormons have aggression: I know that there are male Mormons with no aggression, just like any group, but I also know that fight clubs were as prominent, if not more so, here in Utah than anywhere else. Many of those clubs were sponsered by angry Mormon males.nnAnd, how about addressing my questions regarding Jesus. Are you folks not Christian? Do you not believe that it is prudent to live as Jesus would? Do you think that JC would like that his supposedly chosen ones are in bars, bloodying up his fellow man? Don’t you think that in the interest of peaceable actions, Jesus would prefer that ya’ll just sit back with a few beers rather than beat each other up? nnLike I said, it’s just more local religious hypocrisy. nnI’ll continue with my beer sinning. You can keep your hypocrisy. 2007-12-04 16:42:04.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Confused A79664E6-14D1-13A2-9FB7FD734CA70699 9C54D174-14D1-13A2-9F435FB471CA24E3 Mr. Dark let me start by appologizing. I have once again made a complete ass out of my self through my misguided anger. Our phone coversation a fews months back has been festering and I let it get away from me in my letter. The letter was never directed to your dedication of reporting the awareness on abuse. I honor you for that. I have insulted the women you wrote about through my anger and for this I am greatly ashamed and deeply sorry for. My anger is not about the awareness of abuse it is about your answer to healing from abuse through forgivenes. I am not blind to the hurt and anger that comes with abuse but I have this belief that if we hold the compassion and understanding to take a broader view of abuse we can stop it. The abusers we talk about with hate and anger were once the abused as we are. This is the cycle of abuse and I may be nothing more than a fool but I believe we can stop abuse from continuing its cycle to the next generation. I believe humans are compassionate beings that are capable of overcoming their hate and anger. Anything is possible if you are open to try. This is the letter you should have recieved but through my stupidity and anger you recieved something completely different. My letter is something I will always look at as another lesson to my anger. Yes I do have anger issues when it come to being told people are not ready to hear any kind of message of forgiveness. It was not that long ago I myself would have told me, to kiss off if I heard the word forgiveness. It is a very misunderstood word. I have read both of your stories again and I will read them yet one more time. Thank you Stephan, I was wrong and once again I am sorry. I will not give up on my hope for a better world and an end to child abuse..as you will not give up on your ability to speak truths that are hard to hear. nnSincerelynDebbie 2008-06-20 14:07:08.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Debbie 75.162.251.253 A7A90721-14D1-13A2-9F247632F7B20207 9C6AB77A-14D1-13A2-9FCDB97E5ECABB22 This is another GOOD reason for publicly funded campaigns- to stop the corruption of public officials and stop the quid pro quo.nnI’m pleased to see an investigative story with good facts, thank you for the truth.nnI’m betting that jeff james and jeremy johnson are one and the same. nnHey JJ you’re defense is so-o-o weak, you surely don’t think we believe you tried to return Eric Peterson’s call in a timely manner or before the story deadline, or do you? Be careful, your chickens might come home to roost. 2008-06-20 14:27:29.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 JP 75.169.79.234 A7AE2C94-14D1-13A2-9F93CE0F88E03E21 9C1B9F58-14D1-13A2-9F0A483FCAB3951E Cool story and nice to read a positive take. Good job guys!nnJack 2008-05-01 21:30:19.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Hero Gear 97.116.11.236 A7B76B75-14D1-13A2-9F7E09634807422E 9C6AB77A-14D1-13A2-9FCDB97E5ECABB22 Sorry, never met this Mr. Johnson. I’ve commented on these boards for awhile. Ask Holly. Her whole family thinks I’m the devil... 2008-06-20 14:43:13.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 jeffjames 204.113.19.10 A7B7A557-0F08-BD74-451BDEE3DA54BE0A 87112EA9-CF16-BE3C-D2A0AB58FD06CC3A ho-hum, yawn, another highly enlightened liberal foreigner who has managed to stumble into the dark ages known as Utah but isn’t bright enough to find his way out.n but alas, no worries mate, he has found a newspaper that will tell him what he wants to hear and agree with what he already believes. wow. welcome to the brainwashed 2007-12-04 17:32:18.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 hawg A7C3BA5A-14D1-13A2-9F2A188340DB40CD 98811AA8-14D1-13A2-9F19F35602F73432 That actually is a good point Brad. You made me feel better. Next time I am feeling disenfranchised for being a second class citizen simply because of my religious beliefs I will remember the rest of the world hates YOU. 2008-08-09 07:59:27.0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Anthony 98.202.171.106 A7D92AF6-14D1-13A2-9F9F6F216ED50CC3 989A766C-14D1-13A2-9F623B3517ECA371 BIGGIE JOHN< IM BACK......

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 5,2008 at 16:56 /n1- If in fact you hope to expand coverage for children the council should run, not walk, away from this proposal.n Mullen is dead on; this has nothing for children. Once the new chronic needs enrollees start drawing benefit dollars out of the County plan the County will be forever trying to keep up with that gushing leak and there will never be an opportunity to expand coverage for existing employee family members.nn2- Even if the new enrollees pay 100% of the premium this will still cost the County plenty.n As soon as the new claims start coming in the insurer is going to pay out a lot more than the new premiums will bring in. The response will be for the insurer to raise premiums for everyone in the plan; enough to cover that new additional payout plus a tidy cushion. Unless the county starts a new totally separate insurance plan for the new enrollees (not feasible) their cost is going to bleed over into the premiums paid by every employee (and the county share, as well) nn3- Get someone who actually understands this to run the numbers and advise the Council.n/

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 3,2008 at 12:04 This proposal will not just cost much, much more than Wilson claims; it will alter the very nature of Salt Lakes’ medical insurance program in a fundamental way.nnIt will increase cost by a quantum, not incremental, leap.nnCurrently the plan covers employees and their families (their “real” families; spouse, kids) That is a demographically average and predictable group. The employees themselves should be no less healthy than the average Utahan (actually more healthy, since all are presumably able-bodied enough to hold a job) The spouses should be likewise “average”; after all, you wouldn’t go out and marry a terminally ill person just because you’re job has health coverage. The children also should be medically “average”; you don’t choose to have a medically compromised child based on your insurance status.nnIf the county workforce increased by 20% but the plan otherwise remained the same one could reasonably expect the plan’ costs to increase by about 20% also.nnHowever the program proposed by Wilson does not simply increase the number of (medically average) participants in the plan. It introduces the element of enrollee choice and destroys the random averageness of the group that makes it insurable.nnEvery employee will be able to choose another person to add to the plan, literally anyone. While you would/could not select spouse and/or children based on medical status the new people who are going to be added WILL HAVE health care issues and needs, otherwise why go to the expense and effort to add them? As the article’ author suggest; ill elderly relatives and disabled adult relatives can be added, but nothing in the plan limits new enrollees to relatives, no matter how distant. ANY adult with medical needs can be added, just as easily as a parent.nnDespite Wilson’ naive assertion, pretty much anyone WILL be able to jump in and run away with County health care. The proposed criteria for enrolling are way too lenient and will pose a minimum barrier to someone with expensive health care needs and no current coverage.nnEach and every employee will be able to bring in someone with expensive healthcare costs and enroll them on the County’ plan.nnInstead of county employee families occasionally and infrequently having major medical expenses (as is normal for an “average” sample) each and every family could have such a major case for the County to pay for.nnIt will be like a fire insurance company allowing people to sign up and be covered after their house catches on fire.nnIt won’t make the County plan more expensive, it will gut it financially.nnIt could easily double, triple or quadruple the current health insurance cost to the County.nnIf this proposal has been out there for three years why has no one ever done any actual analysis on the costs.nnThis is incredibly Mickey-Mouse, if you ask me.nnIt would be funny if the financial implications were not so frightening.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 2,2008 at 13:55 Holly & Jenny: nnI’m not afraid to be sexist. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. There is only one thing worse than a hypersensitive woman, and that’s two of them.nnSo there.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 2,2008 at 13:47 To: please answer:nnDon’t hold your breath. If the $300,000 figure had a solid base, she would have revealed it in her note. Notice her response to the guy’s comment. It starts with a complaint about the county council’s approval of an expenditure for some real estate (which has nothing to do with insurance coverage for domestic partners), and ends with personal/emotional statements about her supposed youth and inexperience (which, again, has nothing to do with insurance coverage).nnThe fact is that this whole thing is based on personal feelings about her fellow council members. Holly Mullen’s comments are just a reflection of conversations she has had with Jenny Wilson about how much she dislikes Crockett. It’s all personal, and that’s why the county council is so broken. They don’t like each other and they won’t work together for that reason only. Wilson isn’t the first one; it’s been this way for years. When Crockett wants a study of her pet project, she takes it personally, and it ends up in a column that her relative writes for a newspaper. nnIn other words, you won’t get an answer because the dollar figure you ask about isn’t based on a thorough, documented study, and to say so will admit that a fellow councilman might have a point.

 

 
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