If Alderwoman Maureen Saunders has her way at the next Board of Aldermen meeting, the city’s long-held practice of picking up the health insurance tab for its elected officials will end — immediately.
There will be no more research, no more discussion and no transition time for Mayor Pat Kelley and the three aldermen who participate in the program to shop around for another insurance carrier.
Saunders intends to introduce a motion to end the practice of providing city-paid health insurance to Brentwood’s part-time elected officials. She made a similar motion last month, but withdrew it after fellow alderman Anthony Harper asked for some research into the long-held practice before the next aldermanic meeting, which is scheduled for July 16th.
“They can pick up COBRA,” she said of her fellow elected officials. “Enough!”
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COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows qualified (former) employees the right to temporarily receive health insurance from their employer — but pay the entire premium, for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.
But Brentwood aldermen aren't former employees.
“I don’t believe we (elected officials) are entitled to the insurance,” said Saunders, nor does she want it. She also said it irks her that some of her peers, by virtue of receiving insurance, are getting paid more than she is for the same job.
Saunders and other newly elected officials are barred from participating in the insurance program administered by the St. Louis Area Insurance Trust (SLAIT). SLAIT does not allow part-time help, including elected officials, to participate in its group plan. When Brentwood joined SLAIT in 2009, SLAIT ‘grandfathered in’ existing officials. There was no change in guard until the aldermanic election this past April.
Saunders was voted into office along with new Patrick Toohey and Cindy Manestar. Manestar is enrolled in the city-run insurance program through her husband, who is a Brentwood police officer. Toohey is satisfied with his health insurance from his employer, and Saunders is covered through her husband’s plan.
Mayor Pat Kelly, aldermen Tom Kramer, Andy Leahy and Keith Robertson are enrolled in the city-paid health insurance program. Aldermen Harper and Lee Wynn are not.
“The big question is: Did we have the legal right to get this benefit,” Saunders said.
So far no one has been able to provide any proof — one way or the other.
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