City employees concerned about out-of-pocket costs, deductibles

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 21, 2014 

Columbus Council meeting Tuesday December 3, 2013


Five city employees came before Columbus Council during a public hearing on health care cost increases with similar opinions Tuesday evening at the City Services Center.

Council held the second of three public hearings Tuesday to allow city employees to express their feelings about a new health insurance plan that councilors are considering to address about $2 million a year in health care budget shortfalls.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson's administration's proposal would raise HMO rates for individuals from $91 a month to $92.80, employee and spouse rates from $195 to $227.20, employee and children from $208 to $211.15 and family rates from $221 to $286.73.

Employees who choose the PPO option would see individual rates drop from $104 a month to $98.87, as would employee plus children rates, from $234 to $218.38, but employee and spouse rates would go from $221 to $234.91 and family rates would rise from $247 to $297.56.

Employees who opt to use the Health and Wellness Center would see rates stay the same as the current HMO rates. Out-of-pocket expenses would also rise.

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.

Several employees and at least one councilor said it's not the increased premiums that hurt as much as the higher deductibles and out-of-pocket levels.

"A lot of the confusion lies within something that we're not seeing. It's not affecting our paychecks, but it's what happens when we go to the doctor," said Brian Giffin, operations manager for the Civic Center. "How much are we paying out of pocket for co-pays? How much are we paying out of pocket for emergency visits and deductibles?"

Kevin Wells, who works in Public Works, had a similar take on the presentation.

"Could we do a compromise somehow, with the deductibles and out-of-pockets?" Wells asked councilors. "We know the budget is tight. We don't want money out of our pockets, nobody wants that, but maybe if we could compromise."

Councilor Judy Thomas was sympathetic to the city workers' out-of-pocket plight.

"It's coming straight out of the pockets of the employees," Thomas said. "Our employees are going to be impacted … and that is a very legitimate concern. It's what's driving me to take a closer look at what we're doing here."

Tuesday's meeting was the second of three public hearings on how the city will address rising health care costs. They held a similar hearing on Jan. 7 and will hold another on Jan. 28. Then on Feb. 11 council will be asked to vote on whether the city will absorb the entire increase or divide it with city employees.

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