NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — After tremendous pressure from Nashville residents and a controversial compromise—the Metro Council has eliminated its own million-dollar healthcare benefit.
But the council voted to keep the benefit for themselves while eliminating it in the future, and some say that was wrong and self-serving.
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For almost 10 years, Nashville's Metro Council has had a death grip on its incredible healthcare benefit. Work 8 years part-time and then get health insurance for life. It finally got rid of the benefit, but with an asterisk. The council made sure it got to keep the benefit before it goes away.
Council member Tonya Hancock wouldn’t let it go, she knew the benefit was just not right.
How can you get a health insurance premium paid at 75% for life after working just 8 years part-time on the Metro Council?
Nevertheless, she ran into fierce opposition and multiple strategies to kill the bill.
“It really is from the dead so many times. 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and now this bill was literally killed and we brought it back from the dead,” said Hancock.
FOX 17 actually published the names of the people voting against it, Hancock held a press conference. The public responded with hundreds of emails.
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Councilwoman Joy Stiles didn’t want to give up the benefit, not now, not ever, but her constituents influenced her.
“Constituents did message me and said they want the benefit to be gone. I did share my thoughts and concerns but at the end of the day I don’t represent just myself,” said Stiles.
Stiles eventually voted to end the benefit after pressure and after a citizen review panel voted unanimously to end the benefit.
Susan Miller was on the panel and while she saw both sides, she clearly thinks the benefit is a bad idea.
“I’m glad it's finished. It's been a long time coming and I hope in the near future that they continue with this and continue to look for ways to cut because I’ve never worked any place part-time where I can work for 8 years and get lifetime benefits,” said Miller.
Remember this all goes back to 2012, when former Councilman Phil Caiborne repeatedly tried to kill the benefit.
ALSO SEE: Metro Council members back renewed push to end council's lifetime benefits
Even with an independent audit that revealed no one else in America had this kind of benefit, the council wouldn’t budge and give up their precious healthcare for life.
Finally, Tuesday night it passed, but with important amendments. First this current council gets its insurance for life, and even future council members can get the benefit for two years past service if they suffered financially for serving on the council.
The amendments may have made the difference, but not everyone is happy.
“So they finally realized it's a problem but of course we can’t do anything now, we can’t take away their healthcare,” said Mark Cunningham from the Beacon Center of Tennessee. “It has to be forward-looking for you to say this is a huge problem we need to fix now, we are not going to address it for six years, because we are the ones benefiting from this awful deal for taxpayers this is exactly to a tee why people don’t trust politicians because even when they realize that this huge problem exists they exempt themselves from making any sacrifice.”
But for Hancock, it’s a huge victory that will save millions of dollars down the road.
“We will not be adding to it so instead of being exponentially growing, it will be a shrinkage of the expense,” said Hancock.