City opts for new insurance plan

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finding an insurance carrier at a reasonable cost is a challengefor anyone, and city officials pondered that problem extensively atTuesday night’s budget work session.

The board ultimately decided to switch from the current planwith Great West to one with United Health Care.

The move to United will give city employees a co-pay system ondoctor visits and save the city money. In addition, city officialsare trying to gradually move the burden of dependent coverage overto employees.

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After the claims made on the city’s insurance over the last yearwere around a million and a half dollars, insurance agent SylviaKing told Brookhaven officials Tuesday that to stay with Great Westand maintain the same premiums, the deductible on employee planswould have to go up to $1,000. That would be double the current$500 deductible.

“The carrier we’ve got now knows what we’ve got,” she said. “Thenew ones do not. If something is going on they don’t know about,they can and will walk away.”

King brought comparisons of three companies – Great West, Unitedand Blue Cross/Blue Shield – and said part of what made thecomparison hard was the different components each plan offered.

“A large amount of money is going out on drugs each month,” Kingsaid. “That was a huge hunk of our claims last month.”

The board discussed the intricacies of the different plans withKing, down to the drug cards offered by each one, before decidingunanimously to switch to United Health Care.

Officials estimate that the switch to United could save the cityas much as $246,000 a year.

City Clerk Mike Jinks said the new policy has a $500 deductibleand pays 90 percent for in-network physician visits and 70 percentoutside the network, as well as two deductibles per family like thecurrent plan the city is on.

The new drug card will be three-tier instead of two-tiered,going from the current 10/20 card to United’s 10/20/30. Under thenew plan, employee costs for drugs will range from $10 to $30,depending on drug and type prescribed.

Jinks said the new plan has a $15 co-pay, whereas the currentplan under Great West does not have a co-pay at all. Trips to theemergency room have a $100 co-pay and urgent care clinics are$35.

“The dependent coverage part is the part that is being shiftedover a period of time to the employee,” Jinks said. “The figures wehave right now won’t be solid until the underwriting iscomplete.”

As it stands, city employees will pay half of the dependentcoverage, which is $731 per month, thus making the employee’s share$365.50 per month. Jinks said the details will go out in a letterat the end of the week, and the final decision will be made by theboard at the Sept. 4 regular meeting.

The board also decided to consider a 6 percent raise for alldepartment heads, including the board of aldermen, the mayor, andthe city clerk.

“It’s a legitimate fact that everyone with the city and everydepartment head has a greater responsibility than they did a fewyears ago,” said Mayor Bob Massengill. “My suggestion fordepartment heads and the aldermen, I think you should reconsiderand make it a 6 percent raise because of the responsibility.Consider that and we’ll deal with it another night.”

When the aldermen pointed out that the mayor needed a raise aswell, the mayor said the decision was theirs to make, not his.

The board also discussed a $41,000 carry-forward amount in thesolid waste department, saying that the solid waste budget was ingood shape.

A slight increase in water/sewer charges will help to buoy thebudget in that department, with users up to 25,000 gallons beingcharged an extra $1.50 per month, and users of over 25,000 gallonsgoing to an extra $1.80 per month.