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One spends more than twice as much on employee health insurance--almost one million dollars more


By R. Perry


March 5, 2011 (San Diego's East County) -- The San Miguel Fire Protection District spends more than twice as much on health benefits for its 96 employees than does the neighboring fire department in El Cajon.


In 2009 San Miguel Fire asked voters for a 1.5 million dollar benefit fee. The voters turned them down. The result was the closure of an entire engine company reducing response capability by eleven percent.


El Cajon Fire gives each employee $7,200 per year for medical, dental and vision benefits to spend as they see fit. Anything not spent goes to the employee as a taxed cash benefit. San Miguel Fire spends $14,850 on average for each of its 96 employees. More than twice as much.


 If San Miguel Fire adopted the same health benefit as enjoyed by the firefighters in the City of El Cajon the difference would be a 'savings' $952,893 this year. Money that could be applied towards restoring the lost public safety capability.


San Miguel Fire currently provides health benefits for 168 beneficiaries (96 current employees and lifetime medical benefits for 72 retired employees). The $952,893 is the amount saved if all 168 beneficiaries were given the same amount as in El Cajon - $7,200 per year.


El Cajon's benefit, known as a cafeteria plan, is determined by city policy and is not dependent upon what an insurance company charges for its plan, as is the case in San Miguel. The continuing increase in the health insurance costs, rising faster than the rate of inflation, is a major threat to the ability of fire departments to maintain current levels of public safety. The City of El Cajon seems to have a good solution to rising health costs.

San Miguel Fire health insurance rates were obtained in February 2011 through a public information request. San Miguel Consolidated Fire Protection District is one of the three largest fire department in San Diego County. It serves the residents of Spring Valley, Mt. Helix, Rancho San Diego, Crest, Bostonia, Casa de Oro.


The opinions expressed in this editorial reflect the views of its author.  If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, please contact

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