Following days of criticism, Gaston County commissioners said Friday they will reconsider a vote that gave them health insurance for life after they leave office at taxpayer expense.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously voted themselves that perk for them and their dependents.
But community members were quick to criticize the all-Republican board, and there even was a small protest in Gastonia the day after the vote led by a local tea party organization and the Gaston County Young Republicans.
“I have heard you loud and clear and plan to fix this issue,” board chair Tracy Philbeck wrote on Facebook Friday in a message to the county and the media. “The resolution that was passed by the commission was not intended for commissioners to make money or have special treatment. However it is obvious that is how it is perceived.”
His proposal is to have commissioners who leave the board pay for coverage without any taxpayer money involved.
Under the plan approved this week, commissioners are eligible to purchase health insurance coverage after leaving office if they have served at least four years. The county would pay for the bulk of the coverage.
Gaston County offers traditional co-pay and high-deductible health savings account plans.
At current rates for the traditional plan, a commissioner would have a biweekly cost of $18.72 for individual coverage and $128.21 for himself and his family, while the county would cover $322.65 for the individual cost and $586.47 for the family.
So for instance, over the course of a year for all seven board members, taxpayer costs would be $58,722 to cover individuals or $106,738 for the family plan.
Philbeck called for a special meeting Tuesday morning.
He wants to amend the resolution so commissioners who choose to purchase health insurance must do so at full cost without taxpayer money involved. Philbeck’s plan also makes commissioners eligible for coverage after serving 10 years instead of four.
Commissioners are still eligible for coverage as sitting board members at the same rate as other county employees, and the county and commissioners both pay into the plan.
Following the Tuesday vote, the Gaston County Young Republicans, in a Facebook post, demanded that the board rescind the vote and “apologize for this abuse of power.
“If they do not rescind their action, we ask they step down or be subject to a recall by the hardworking, taxpaying citizens of our great county.”
After learning of Philbeck’s new plan, Young Republicans Chairman Daniel Ware called the move a fair compromise.