44° Good Afternoon
44° Good Afternoon

EDITORIAL: Politics won't bring down county premiums

The big type on a press release earlier this month from Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos pulled no punches: "Contrary to Obama's Health Care Promises, the County's 2011 Health Insurance Premiums Set to Skyrocket." The only problem is that one event wasn't connected to the other.

Hours later, another advisory said his news conference on this startling development was postponed. Then a week later, another press release announced that Maragos, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and County Executive Edward Mangano would link arms to reduce the cost of insurance premiums for municipal workers. Gone was any mention of the president and his new federal health care law. What happened?

Every spring, local governments participating in the state health consortium get an estimate of the next year's cost, to aid in budget planning. It's usually the start of tough negotiations to make them go back to the private insurance companies for a reduction in premiums. This year's projected increases, between 13.4 percent and 22.5 percent, seem especially high in comparison to the two prior years. But that's because then-Comptroller Howard Weitzman led a successful effort to get the state Health Insurance Program to draw down on its huge reserves to offset increases.

Maragos, however, insists there is a link, because the notice from the state came just two days after the federal law was signed. That's not a widely accepted cause and effect. Still, Maragos is right that rates are too high, and he should take a lead in getting them reduced. Politicizing this effort is a lot less productive. hN