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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County imposing 80/20 health care rule on labor groups that haven't settled contracts

By Ryan J. Stanton

Five groups of Washtenaw County employees that haven't settled new contracts are expected to start paying significantly more for their health care benefits soon.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners voted 10-0 in committee Wednesday night to go along with the state's new 80/20 rule for public employee health insurance.

That caps the county's contributions toward health care benefits at 80 percent of costs, while the approximately 100 employees affected will pick up 20 percent starting Jan. 1.

"Currently these five groups pay zero," said County Administrator Verna McDaniel, emphasizing it will be a significant change for those employees.


Verna McDaniel


Conan Smith

The five bargaining units affected are the general supervisors, public defenders, public defender supervisors, assistant prosecuting attorneys and assistant prosecuting attorney supervisors.

McDaniel said negotiations with those five units have been slow to progress and all have labor contracts expiring Dec. 31.

"There's been a lot of education, a lot of discussions, and a lot of wait-and-see," she said. "So we're continuing to dialogue and we need to have this all settled by the end of this year."

Public Act 152 of 2011 was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in September. By default, it limits public employers to paying no more than $5,500 for health benefits for a single employee, $11,000 for an employee plus spouse, and $15,000 for family coverage. It applies to any labor agreements signed on or after Sept. 15.

By a majority vote of its governing body, a local government — such as a city, county or school district — can opt to comply with an alternate 80/20 provision in the law and cap its costs at 80 percent.

Or by two-thirds vote taken annually, a local government also can exempt itself entirely from the law for the next year.

County Board Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, said it's with some reluctance he's supporting the 80/20 measure.

He said he hopes in future years all county labor groups will work cooperatively with the board and commissioners can muster a two-thirds vote to exempt them from the law.

The county reached new labor agreements containing several concessions, including on health care, with most of its employees earlier this year. Those groups will not be impacted by the new state law for the life of their new contracts.

Commissioners are expected to give final approval to the 80/20 measure at the next full board meeting. Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr. was absent Wednesday.

According to a 2009 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employees in Michigan on average pay 21 percent of the cost of their medical benefits for single coverage and 27 percent for family coverage. Michigan public employees on average pay about 10 percent for single coverage and 15 percent for family coverage.

County officials didn't have an exact savings estimate from the 80/20 change on Wednesday, but rough calculations show it's in the six-figure range.

"A lot of our employees are under the family plan," McDaniel said, explaining what affected employees will pay now. "For 2012, we know the costs are going to go up. And let's just say if family coverage is $19,000, it'd be 20 percent of that — so roughly a little under $4,000."

Under the new state law, the cost cap applies to not only health insurance premiums, but also all employer payments for reimbursement of co-pays, deductibles and payments into health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts or similar accounts for health care.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Tom Todd

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

I'm jealous my neighbor makes a dollar more an hour then I do, and his wife makes three dollars more and has better health care, I think we should take from them,that way the rich can have more.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:25 p.m.

County employees shouldn't gripe about 80/20. They need to be thankful they didn't get the law's hard premium cap imposed on them. They would've contributed even more under that option.

Joe Kidd

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

80/20 is still overly generous when many employers both public and private are going to 70/30 which is still generous on the employers part.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Snoopdog, Although some wages may infact be higher.....Id love to see that date PROVING this. The reality is that they certainly ALL aren't. My co-worker, who is extremly underpaid just took a 15% paycut because of this. A differnt reality than you may know about.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

Welcome to our reality kraken1165. And BTW, public employee wages in this state are now much higher than the private sector wages so you are simply wrong in your assessment. Good Day


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

This new law effects me directly and I dont mind paying my fair share. However, when a wage is not inline with the market and you take a job predicated on the value of the beinfits that are covered; heathcare, this deal may not be a fair as you think. I just took a $2500 paycut on a wage that, frankly, only made sense with healthcare included.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

Another reason why public unions should be outlawed. God bless Mr. Snyder for bringing some fiscal sanity to this state, it never would have happened without him. You did the right thing Mr. Smith by voting yes, we appreciate it ! Good Day

Joe Kidd

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

I agree. It will be interesting to see what happens in Wisconsin with the recall attempt. Ohio too. They just voted out the ability to end collective bargaining. I like the Oh Governor's response that the people have spoken, but still, there is no money, no bailout is coming for communities with deficits.

Hot Sam

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Welcome to our world...


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Dunno. Everyone else pays for health care why cant county employees?

Basic Bob

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:31 a.m.

I don't understand why any of these "bargaining units" requires union status. Supervisors? Attorneys? Attorney supervisors? PLEASE. Especially since their main function seems to be to impede the functioning of government by not concluding their contracts.


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

How does not concluding a contract impede the function of government? They are not on strike, they are showing up for work. Their classification may not "require" union status, but the people that do the job have the right to form and join a union, it's called "freedom".

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 11:13 a.m.

Mr. Smith, this is what you get for being a "Snyder Democrat"--decisions are taken away from local officials and decided in Lansing. We're really sorry your Mom wasn't on the Democratic ticket but spare us the tears--you after all are fine with Emergency Financial Managers too. And when are you paying back what YOU owe the County?


Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Decisions are taken away from local officials when they don't have the courage or willpower to make the decisions that any prudent individual would make. This should make it easier on politicians because they can tell everyone they are being "forced" to do it. They don't have to waste their time trying to explain that there is no money and that these union people already make more than the people they are supposedly serving.