STL Crime Rate Up While Cops Pay for Health Care Choice
On the same morning that the St. Louis Police Board announced that crime rates were up in St. Louis for the first time in 20 months, the board also announced the force’s new health insurance plan. Officers now get a choice between a free plan with an attached co-pay, or the plan they already have for $20 per pay period. The Post-Dispatch discusses the board meeting in detail.
The new plan is a step forward for the STLPD, giving officers a choice in how to protect themselves from future harm — but the cost increase is quite dramatic. While the increased costs cannot be offset by wage cuts, as elementary economic theory would suggest, the police force could delay any future pay increases. Also, increased costs delay the chance of overtime pay for police officers even more.
Typically, increased health costs would cause the demand to work in a particular position to fall, but recruitment has always been strong with the police force. One worry arising from increased job costs would be retention. At what point do the benefits of working as a cop in St. Louis city no longer outweigh the benefits of being a cop in St. Louis County? Rather than dealing with the dangers of inner-city pressure, they could be giving me another speeding ticket on Shrewsbury. Why should experienced police officers stay in a jurisdiction with not only a higher level of danger, but higher health care costs as well, when there is always a rookie cop ready to replace them?
With setting up health savings accounts (HSAs), the STLPD is in an odd position. Because of the nature of the job, all police officers will be in harm’s way on a daily basis. The usual solution — moving out of harm’s way — isn’t an option for the fuzz, so premiums for cops are naturally going to be higher than, say, premiums for a butcher or pharmacist. Though the move toward free-market health care might be an awkward one for the St. Louis Police Department, any cost increases will be offset by the value of freedom of choice.
The Show-Me Institute’s vice president, Jason Hannasch, writes about the benefits of HSAs here.