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Brown’s part time staff

You have to admit, she does things her way.

CM Helena Brown

Houston District A Councilwoman Helena Brown, whose lone “no” votes against city spending have differentiated her from the rest of the 17-member council, also is an outlier as an employer: She is the only council member to hire an entirely part-time staff that gets no health insurance or other benefits.

“The Council Member and all her staff were offered benefits but declined, choosing to opt for their own health care coverage in the private sector where it is more cost effective for employees, and let us not forget, for the City too!” according to a statement from Brown’s office.

Brown would have been eligible to receive the benefits after she has served 90 days on the council, technically a part-time job that pays $55,770 a year. Employees pay about one-fifth of the health insurance premiums, with the city paying the rest. The cheapest of the plans calls for a city contribution of more than $200 a month per employee.

Five of her seven staff members are paid hourly to work 39 hours a week, which under city employment rules allows her to classify the employees as part-time. They are, therefore, ineligible for vacation days, sick days, pension benefits or city-subsidized health insurance. The other two Brown staffers work 22 or fewer hours a week.

Well, I’m not going to deny that rising health care costs are a long term financial issue for the city. But neither am I going to agree that requiring your staff to fend for themselves, without any kind of subsidy or assistance, is an acceptable solution. Seems to me that despite her office’s claims about how going the all-part time route will enable them to attract a “more diverse skill set”, this is likely to get people who fall into one of three groups: Those who can get health insurance via a spouse, or parent if they’re under 26 (thanks to the Affordable Care Act); those who are wealthy enough to buy insurance on the individual market, at least until the insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act come on line in 2014; and those who rely on publicly-funded health care via Medicare, Medicaid, and emergency rooms. I’ll leave it to you to count up all the ironies involved.

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  1. Houstonian says:

    I’d say she’ll have higher than normal turnover, except for people like her Chief of Staff, who are there with an agenda beyond just having a job.

  2. Jeff N. says:

    Anyone who has a chronic illness will find it difficult or impossible to buy private health insurance as an individual. Her ideology is sheltered from reality and discriminatory against people with diabetes and other health conditions that are too expensive to treat without good insurance.

  3. joshua bullard says:

    This move is probably scary for most yellow dog democrats,its actually refreshing to see helena brown-lead by example,you see, there are some people that will always encourage you to stay weened to the goverment ,and fear people that desire to move away from goverment support and be self supporting-not me, i support helena brown on this measure and if you notice, its only the blogging community that has raised an issue-not the part time staffers.

    take notes- iam showing you how its done.

    joshua “ben” bullard

  4. Houstonian says:

    Do you have health insurance, Mr Bullard? If so, is it an individual policy, or provided by an employer? Ms brown is likely to attract less qualified staffers, and have high turnover. Why take any job with no benefits if there is a better one that has benefits. She’s narrowing her pool of potential employees with her policy.

  5. Southern Tragedy says:

    “The Council Member and all her staff were offered benefits but declined, choosing to opt for their own health care coverage in the private sector where it is more cost effective for employees, and let us not forget, for the City too!” according to a statement from Brown’s office.”

    What part of her staff agreed to this is not registering with you? Kuddos to Councilwoman Brown for common sense solutions. Her staff was well aware of this before they took the job. Apparently, you have never met Helena Brown. There are plenty of folks who are willing to work for her without benefits and doesn’t have a problem in helping the City of Houston cut down on costs. Something that she campaigned for and was voted into office to do. A politician who is actually keeping their campaign promises. Imagine that!!!

  6. Mainstream says:

    I just want to make sure Jeff N. is aware of the Texas Hi Risk Pool insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield and the national PCIP. Although each program has lots of restrictions and can still be pricey. He is correct that private health insurance can be unaffordable: $2000 per month premium with $2500 deductible and 20% co-pay, for example. Most folks who get employer-based insurance have no clue how expensive it is for the self-employed.

  7. Southern Tragedy says:

    I would like to make sure that people are aware of programs such as these:

  8. Jeff N. says:

    Thanks to all who are interested in helping provide health insurance and healthcare to people who have chronic illnesses. I am aware of alternatives to employer-provided health insurance. I have had type 1 diabetes since 1973 and have worked for the state, for large and small businesses, and for myself, since 1986. When I worked for small businesses in the late 1980s, I purchased private health insurance, which excluded coverage for my diabetes, and my insulin, which is very expensive but necessary to keep me alive. I owned my own business for several years and purchased health insurance for my family and my employees. The high expense of health insurance helped convince me to merge my small business into a larger business so my insurance premiums would be lower. I am well educated and have been able to provide healthcare for myself and my family. The high-risk pools are better than nothing but they aren’t affordable for most people. Anyone who thinks that working without employer-based health insurance has never experienced a serious illness and is sheltered from reality. Including this young council member.

  9. HoustonConservativeLatino says:

    Helena is a well meaning but naive person who believes 100% of Ron Paul’s philosophy.
    She thinks anyone who was not home schooled is flawed. She thinks that everyone does not have a chronic disease and everyone can obtain health care at under 100 dollars a month. She thinks city property that was slated for a park in an area that floods should be a body shop. in addition, if she does not get her way she makes a scene at city council meetings. What Helena does not realize is Ron Paul obtained his philosophy from a radical anarchist in the 1980s and is not a true conservative nor a libertarian.
    i hope she wakes up before the entire city council and voting public turns against her and ruins her reputation.

  10. […] three people in your first four months in office is not. Much has been made about Brown’s “part time” staff, which meant they were paid for a maximum of 39 hours a week and got no city-subsidized health […]

  11. […] was one other little detail at the end, relating to the matter of Brown’s staff all being part time and ineligible for benefits such as health insurance: In an interview this week, though, Kim said, “I was OK with the […]