Insurance change expected to save about $72,000

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Brookhaven aldermen Monday decided to “roll the dice” on theprospect of having healthy employees in order to save approximately$72,000 next year on insurance costs.

Board members also voted unanimously to require pre-employmentphysicals, to tighten the employee interview process and to extendby 30 days the waiting period before new workers can join theinsurance plan. The waiting period will now be 90 days.

The insurance change does not affect coverage and does not alterthe $54.94 a month that city employees pay for dependent coverage.Agent Sylvia King, however, said the change would reduce nextyear’s premium increase to around 20 percent, instead of 24.7percent, and save the city about $72,000.

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King said the “preferred funding mechanism” would make the citya little more self-insured and shift more administrative dutiesfrom the insurance company to the city clerk’s office. With thechange, a good claims year by city employees could reduce cityinsurance costs.

“It might be worth a gamble to the city to see if we have a goodyear,” said King, adding that a couple of good years in a row couldlead to premiums going down instead of up.

King said there are stop-loss protections for the city in theinsurance plan. Also, if claims costs do not exceed premiums paid,then the city will be ahead that way.

“If we have a good year, the city of Brookhaven keeps themoney,” King said.

Aldermen unanimously approved the insurance funding change.

In a related matter, aldermen voted to add $6,000 to next year’sbudget for pre-employment employee physicals. Ward 4 Alderman BobMassengill, who suggested the change, said that may lead tohealthier city employees.

“I’m saying let’s find out if somebody’s got something wrongwith them and if they do, don’t let that become our problem,”Massengill said.

Another aspect of the motion was to have City Clerk IrisRudman-Smith conduct interviews with potential new employees,something that has not been done in the past as city departmentheads sought new workers. Officials hoped the physicals andinterviews would lessen the chance of hiring new employees withhealth problems.

Alderman-at-large Les Bumgarner said it is known that the cityhas a good insurance plan and that may the main reason for somepeople joining the city work force.

“I’m not real sure we hadn’t had people apply to get on thepolicy,” Bumgarner said.

Addressing costs for dependent coverage, Bumgarner suggested aplan to have new city employees pay half the costs for familycoverage during their first year of employment. His plan was shotdown after Ward 2 Alderman Terry Bates said low wage-earners wouldnot participate, and King said keeping up with that plan would bean “administrative nightmare” for Rudman-Smith’s office.

Officials then batted about the idea of extending the time a newcity employee must wait before being eligible to join the city’sinsurance plan. After discussing six-, four- and three-monthwaiting periods, the board settled on 90 days.

“I would hate to know I didn’t have insurance for six months,”said Ward 1 Alderman Dorsey Cameron. “That’s too unfair.”