A Curious Nashville listener submitted the following question before this issue recently surfaced in the news:
On the Crieve Hall NextDoor site, it was mentioned that the Nashville Metro City Council members get health care insurance for life. What is the true story? If true, what is the background story? How does this benefit compare to other cities?
This year, Metro spent $837,438 taxpayer dollars on current and former council members’ health care. The spending will increase to over $1 million in 2024, if the number of people participating stays the same.
But a proposal before the Metro Council would greatly curb the benefit. Council member Tonya Hancock is one of the bill’s sponsors and believes that it isn’t fair to Metro employees or taxpayers.
“We’re asking Metro Council to treat ourselves the same way we treat 9,561 Metro employees,” she said in a recent press conference in front of the Metro Courthouse. “And we won’t have lifetime health benefits until we’ve served as long as they have.”
The bill is being re-introduced next week after a majority on the council’s personnel committee voted 4-1 to shelve it. This wasn’t the first time this idea didn’t make it to a full council vote. But Hancock is counting on residents to pressure their council members to support the bill.
Currently, if a council member serves for at least eight years, they can continue their health care plan and Metro pays 75%. A handful of council members want to shift most of that cost to the person receiving the benefits.
If the bill passes it would impact future council members, not the ones currently serving, and future council members would still receive the subsidized benefit while they’re on council.
According to a 2015 comparison, none of Nashville’s peer cities offers this benefit to their former council members. But the majority of committee members who disagree with Hancock say the benefit will help future council members that may not have health care through their primary employer.
“I have a job I work for, a nonprofit, that I’ve worked for over 21 years. I did not get the insurance until I got on the council,” At-Large Council Member Sharon Hurt said. “During that time, I was very ill. And having this opportunity literally has saved my life.”
Opponents of the bill like Hurt say they don’t want potential candidates for the Metro Council to choose between serving their neighborhood or health care, especially people struggling for coverage.