Rising health care costs may impact city workers' bottom line

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 17, 2013 

City health care costs are projected to exceed the amount budgeted for fiscal 2013 by about $2 million, forcing the administration to propose increasing employee premiums and their out of pocket expenses, officials told Columbus Council this morning.

City Finance Director Pam Hodge and Human Resources Director Reather Hollowell briefed councilors during a called work session and presented a proposal that had been crafted by the administration and selected from others by the city’s Employee Benefits Committee.

The proposal, which drew a split but predominantly negative reaction from council would raise HMO rates for individuals from $91 a month to almost $93, employee and spouse rates from $195 to $227, employee and children from $208 to $211 and family rates from $221 to $286.

Employees who choose the PPO option would see individual rates drop from $104 a month to about $94, as would employee plus children rates, from $234 to $218, but employee and spouse rates would go from $221 to $235 and family rates would rise from $247 to $297.

Employees who opt to use the new city clinic would see rates stay the same as the current HMO rates.

Out of pocket expenses would also rise, councilors were told.

HMO out-of-pocket levels would rise from $1,000 per individual and $2,000 per family to $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 per family.

PPO out-of-pocket levels would rise from $2,300 per individual and $4,600 per family to $2,800 per individual and $5,600 per family.

Councilors Judy Thomas and Mike Baker were among several who had differing reactions to the proposal.

“These are some dramatic increases,” Thomas said. “Yes, our employees have had a percent-and-a-half increase (in salary) over the last three years, but for most of them that doesn’t equal the $500 that they’re now going to have to pay out of pocket.

“It’s going to take a lot more than anything I’ve seen so far for me to vote in favor of these kinds of increases.”

Baker, a certified public accountant, said the increases mirror the same health care hardships the private sector is dealing with.

“I’m dealing with business owners facing this every day,” Baker said. “This is extremely reasonable and I don’t have any problem with it at all. I think y’all have done a good job and I’m going to support it.”

Tuesday’s meeting being a work session, council took no action on the insurance proposal except to tell City Manager Isaiah Hugley to come back with more options for them to consider.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson reminded councilors that all city employees have the option of using the city clinic, or Wellness Center as it is known, and thus avoiding any increase in premiums or out of pocket expenses.

Councilors also heard a status report on the new clinic and testimonials from several city employees in support of the facility.

In the clinic’s first 71 days of operation, it saw 1,054 patients, or about 15 a day, performed 3,718 lab test, filled 2,416 prescriptions and made 120 referrals to specialists, all at no cost to the employees or dependents, according to Allison Judge, CEO of the clinic.

Related stories:

Changes to health care under the law, at a glance

Tomlinson to propose smaller city budget for fiscal 2014

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