I talked to Jim Duffy today. He’s the president of the Deputy Sheriffs Association of San Diego County. You’d think that after hearing the news that two county supervisors were planning to cut the retiree health care benefits for his union members, he’d be upset and ready for battle.

He wasn’t.

And I was puzzled.

After all, look at these headlines:

North County Times: Supes propose pension health care cuts
SAN DIEGO – Two San Diego County supervisors Monday said they want the county to stop paying the “non-guaranteed” health insurance subsidies for thousands of current and future pensioners.

The San Diego Union Tribune: Health care for county retirees threatened; 2 supervisors propose plan to cut subsidies

And The Daily Transcript explains more of the news:

That means all future county employees and employees who received benefit enhancements in 2002 will have to pick up their own tab for health care.

Big news, right?

All of these, including everything I learned yesterday, seemed to point to the conclusion that the county of San Diego – if it accepts Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price’s recommendation – was done paying for the medical care of its retired employees.

Not necessarily true.

Duffy isn’t really opposed to what Jacob and Slater-Price proposed because the county isn’t really getting out of the retiree health care business.

I don’t know if we were bamboozled or if we just took a lot more from this than we should. But here’s the deal.

Duffy said it is his impression that while the Board of Supervisors may try to cut off its old way of funding health care for retirees, it is in support of putting together a new way.

Confused?

While it does look like a group of current county retirees will lose up to $400 a month, the county’s current employees are apparently set to negotiate a deal that will keep their health care in tact for when they retire. Under the plan, the county would invest potentially millions of dollars in an account to pay for health care each time it makes deals with its employees.

County leaders are negotiating contracts with employee unions right now that would create a voluntary employee beneficiary association, or VEBA. It’s a trust fund into which taxpayers may be asked to invest millions to pay for the health care of future county retirees.

Not exactly the end of taxpayer-funded retiree health care. This is uber-complicated stuff.

But I’ll go through it in the next post in a few minutes.

SCOTT LEWIS

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