Uploaded on Oct 15, 2011
We Are Ohio union figurehead Doug Stern attempts to explain a misstatement he made to The Columbus Dispatch about his health care plan...with more misstatements about his health care plan.
In a recent piece in The Columbus Dispatch, Joe Vardon writes:
"Cincinnati firefighter Doug Stern, who starred in We Are Ohio's first TV commercial, took on provisions of Senate Bill 5 that require all public employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health-care premiums...Stern said that as a Cincinnati firefighter, he [already] pays 20 percent toward his health- care premiums."
Days later, the Dispatch ran a correction:
"Cincinnati firefighters pay 5 percent of their health-insurance premiums. Because of incorrect information provided to The Dispatch, a story on Page B1 of Wednesday's Metro & State section included a different percentage."
So I approached Stern at a Jimmy Hoffa-attended Cincinnati Teamsters anti-Issue 2 rally to give him an opportunity to explain the discrepancy. Unfortunately, within 81 seconds, he multiplied it by three new discrepancies. I was only trying to make it easier for him.
So he was referring to costs, not premiums. But the Dispatch was not the only outlet he had said this too. Tom Troy of The Toledo Blade also reported:
"Mr. Stern said it's not true that unions have been unwilling to negotiate. He said he and his fellow firefighters pay 20 percent of their health insurance in Cincinnati and haven't had a pay raise in two years."
I spoke with Troy, who advised me that Stern did, to his credit, appear to be speaking of cost, not premium, at the time.
However, Business Journal Daily also quoted Stern in a separate instance:
"That would be wonderful if we could get back" to paying 15% on health insurance, [Stern] added, pointing out that he pays 20% in Cincinnati."
Firstly, if SB 5 brings the premium contribution up from 5 to 15 percent, why did Stern find it relevant to invoke that 15 percent number in the same sentence as his claiming to pay 20 percent of the cost, of which he advised me he was speaking in a categorically separate context from the premium?
Secondly, Stern says "[Section] 4117.08 [of SB 5] states that state employees pay 15 percent of the premiums. People other than employed by the state pay 15 percent of their overall costs." However, 4117.08 does not mention 15 percent of premiums, nor does it distinguish between state and local employees. So that doesn't work.
Thirdly, Stern told me he pays "100 percent of the first $600." We have to assume, for now, that he is paying in-network. If he pays only the first $600 per the in-network deductible, he then pays 20 percent of the next $12,000 to a maximum of $3000 out of pocket. Out-of-network, the deductible would be $1200, thus he would then pay 50 percent of $9,600 to a maximum of $6000. So far, so good.
Yet he thenceforth suggests he is paying out-of-network by claiming he "pick[s] up 20 percent of [his] costs up to $6000 [emphasis mine]," when factually, were he paying the 20 percent, that would be the in-network plan in which the maximum out of pocket is $3000. The $6000 is the out-of-network maximum wherein he would be paying 50 percent, which simply takes him to the maximum faster.
Mind you, this is only assuming he "and his fellow firefighters" routinely incur at least $12,660 worth of medical bills per year -- anything over which is 100 percent paid by the insurance plan, but I'll give him the benefit of the enormous doubt on that.
Stern then doubles down on the notion that he is suddenly paying out-of-network, when he rhetorically asks me: "If [the contractual] 5 percent of my premium is $50, 15 percent would be $150 a month. Right? So what's more? $150 a month? Or paying that premium plus all of my out of pocket up to $6000?" Alright, fine. But if he is now paying out-of-network, why was he only paying the in-network co-pay 48 seconds ago?
Stern's numbers suggest he does not appear to know whether he is paying in-network or out-of-network. The contract clearly distinguishes between the two. One could assume this is a forgivable mix-up between two separate sets of numbers, but being that he claims to be routinely, physically paying these numbers, such a mix-up suddenly ceases to appear so forgivable.
In conclusion, Stern assured me, "I know what the contract says." And this is where he would be 100 percent right -- if only he knew what the contract says.
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