At last, an end to lawmakers’ retiree health coverage

Guest Editorial
Michigan’s state lawmakers took an important step last week to rebuild trust with a cynical public. From now on, any newly elected state representative or senator won’t get health care for life courtesy of taxpayers.

The House and Senate comfortably passed legislation to end retiree health-care coverage. The perk has been available to anyone who served at least six years in office, and it’s a deal you would find in hardly any workplace.

The change will not go far enough to satisfy some. Already-retired politicians will continue to receive taxpayer-funded health insurance until Medicare kicks in, and so will up to 52 current lawmakers. They qualify if they have been in office for six years, or will have that much tenure by the time the law takes effect in 2013.

We wish lawmakers would have gone farther, too, but let’s appreciate the victory that this is. Eliminating this perk is significant, both symbolically and in real terms; the state spends about $5 million on politicians’ retiree health coverage now.

The real value is knowing that lawmakers are treated as fairly as any Michigan worker, and that in this time of state government reform, they share in the sacrifice, too. In a generation, no one will still collect this benefit.

In the meantime, are lawmakers going to stop with this measure? Will they take pay cuts next? Work part time? Let’s see what else they’re willing to consider.