Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2003

City council keeps new health plan

May 7, 2003

The city will keep its recently approved health insurance plan, despite a request from a Baldwin City Council member to find a different plan.

On April 21, the city council approved a Medical Savings Account health insurance plan with Starmark, a switch from the current plan with MARCIT.

Since its approval, the new MSA plan has met with some criticism from some city employees and Council Member Ted Brecheisen.

At Monday's city council meeting, Council Member Marilyn Pearse distributed charts to the council members outlining the differences between the current MARCIT plan and the newly approved MSA plan.

Pearse said the MSA plan is cheaper than the city's current health insurance. With the MSA, money would be set aside in each policy holder's account -- put there with monthly payments by both the city and the policy holder -- to be used for medical expenses. The money placed in the account would not be taxed.

She said a single employee with an MSA would pay about $2,200 for one year's insurance and could have a balance at the end of the year in the MSA account of $1,625. With the MARCIT plan, a single employee would pay about $4,000 a year and have no money saved in a medical account.

Instead of having a copay for doctor's visits and prescriptions like with other insurance policies, Pearse said medical expenses would be paid with the money set aside in the MSA policy holder's account. In fact, anything medical related not covered by health insurance could be paid for by money in the account, she said.

If there was money left over in the account at the end of the year, it could be rolled over and used for the next year, she said.

The city will be contributing $90 a month to the employees' medical accounts. She said employees would be encouraged to put the money being saved on their MSA health insurance per month into their accounts.

"When we first started looking at plans, we knew we've got to do something to curb costs," she said. "This is saving money for both the employee and the city."

Brecheisen said he wasn't comfortable with the plan, even though he voted in favor of the MSA at the last council meeting.

"I think we got a lot of great people working for the city who can't afford it now," he said. "I don't think we as a city should be shirking responsibility if our costs go up.

"I think we're shirking responsibility when our employees cannot afford to put any money in this even though they are saving $200 a month."

Pearse disagreed, saying employees' health insurance was already unaffordable.

"They can't afford to pay it now," she said. "This way they're putting $1,625 in an account they don't have now.

"The thing is, Junior, the rumor going around is that we're trying to take advantage of the employees. That couldn't be farther from the truth."

Council Member Todd Cohen, the only one to vote against the MSA, said he thought more education was necessary.

"It's a very radical change," Cohen said. "You can't just throw it into their laps and drop it. I think you need some education."

Council Member Ken Wagner said there were meetings to inform the employees about the new policy.

"It sounds to me like they did try to educate, but they closed their minds to it," he said.

Cohen said he was also concerned people would be afraid to use the money in their medical accounts.

"I think it will discourage people from going to the doctor because they don't want to pay for it," he said. "I think they will manage it like an account."

Wagner said he didn't see that as a problem.

"I don't think discouraging people from going to the doctor is all that bad," he said. "I see people going to the doctor needlessly every day."

Brecheisen said he thought the employees should have another health insurance plan and made a motion to dispose of the MSA plan and find another. The motion died for lack of a second.

Council Member Amy Cleavinger said she thought the MSA was a good health insurance plan.

"If we didn't feel it was a good thing for employees, it would have never gotten to this point," she said. "It wouldn't have been discussed."

The council approved in a 4-1 vote to fully fund a single employee's MSA for 1 year at $137 a month. Originally, the city was only going to pay $90 a month into the MSA. Wagner voted against the motion because he said he didn't want to set a precedence by changing what had already been set.

In other business, the council:

  • Approved in a 5-0 vote to give $250 to the Citizens for Baldwin City for this year's fireworks display.

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