City looks to cut health care costs

© 2018-The Record Delta

BUCKHANNON — The City of Buckhannon is likely facing a 6.12 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for employees, council members learned during a special meeting last week.
Ahead of its regular council meeting Tuesday, council convened last Wednesday for a special meeting solely to discuss the issue of employee health insurance and rising costs associated with it. At Tuesday’s meeting — which was moved from Thursday to accommodate the 76th annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival — council is expected to make a decision about renewing employees’ health insurance, according to the council agenda posted May 12.
At the outset of last Wednesday’s meeting, finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins and Jamie Powell of Loudin Insurance, who assists the city with insurance matters, reported that the city originally faced a near-18 percent increase in health insurance through its carrier Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia. The City of Buckhannon currently provides health insurance to its 85 employees and their families.
“We were thinking it was maybe going to be a single-digit increase and it ended up being a double-digit increase, so we went back to the drawing table and we started approaching some other companies,” Jenkins told council.
However, after the city’s employees had completed health surveys and returned them to the companies, other companies’ rates “weren’t any better” than Blue Cross Blue Shield, Jenkins said. This prompted Jenkins and Powell to explore other options.
Powell was able to get the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance renewal rate down from a 17.7 percent increase to a 12.75 increase, meaning the monthly premium for the city would increase by $11,143 from $87,427 to $98,570 per month if the city opts to renew its current plan as is.
But Powell wasn’t satisfied — he continued to look at other possibilities, and ultimately came up with a Premium Saver Plan through AmFirst Insurance Company. A Premium Saver Plan is supplemental coverage that fills in the deductible and other cost-sharing holes, according to Powell. Through the use of a supplemental plan such as the Premium Saver Plan, the deductible is higher, which lowers the monthly premium. In the city’s case, choosing a combination of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Premium Saver Plan would result in a health insurance increase of just 6.12 percent, as compared to 12.75 percent, Powell told council members.
“What a premium saver plan does is it comes in and says we are looking at a way to lower your premiums — go back to your major medical insurance and change that deductible and raise it,” Powell explained. “The Premium Saver option is supplemental coverage to cover the gap so the employee doesn’t have to pay. Going with Premium Saver took the premium increase down from 12.75 percent to 6.12 percent.”
Powell presented two options to the city — renewing its Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance and adding the Premium Saver Plan with a deductible of $750 or renewing the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and adding the Premium Saver Plan with a deductible of $1,000. A third choice is to keep the exact same coverage the city currently offers employees; however, if council chooses that path, the increase in cost would remain at 12.75 percent. If council opts to go with either package that tacks on the Premium Saver Plan, employees will be required to carry two insurance cards instead of just one.
“I believe the process works very well,” Powell said of the Premium Saver Plan option. “With that being said — and I talked to Amby about this — no matter how well the process works, it’s only going to be as strong as the employees turning it in, so if you have an employee who doesn’t hand in both cards or a doctor who makes a mistake, there’s always a chance of questions coming back.”
Mayor David McCauley said the city will likely face even tougher decisions regarding health insurance in the future.
“We will also further the discussion about future tiering,” McCauley said Friday, following Wednesday’s meeting. “Potentially, at some point what we’ll probably consider is covering future employees only and then all or a portion of the premiums associated with spouses or family would be born by the employee. Employees would be treated differently depending on when they came on board with the city.”
McCauley said holding Wednesday’s meeting was integral to good decision-making.
“We wanted it to be digested by our supervisory folks first,” the mayor said. “It’s not one of those things you want to steamroll.”
Council is expected to discuss tiering health insurance for future employees, according to its agenda for the May 16 meeting.


Ahead of its regular council meeting Tuesday, council convened last Wednesday for a special meeting solely to discuss the issue of employee health insurance and rising costs associated with it. At Tuesday’s meeting — which was moved from Thursday to accommodate the 76th annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival — council is expected to make a decision about renewing employees’ health insurance, according to the council agenda posted May 12.
At the outset of last Wednesday’s meeting, finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins and Jamie Powell of Loudin Insurance, who assists the city with insurance matters, reported that the city originally faced a near-18 percent increase in health insurance through its carrier Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia. The City of Buckhannon currently provides health insurance to its 85 employees and their families.
“We were thinking it was maybe going to be a single-digit increase and it ended up being a double-digit increase, so we went back to the drawing table and we started approaching some other companies,” Jenkins told council.
However, after the city’s employees had completed health surveys and returned them to the companies, other companies’ rates “weren’t any better” than Blue Cross Blue Shield, Jenkins said. This prompted Jenkins and Powell to explore other options.
Powell was able to get the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance renewal rate down from a 17.7 percent increase to a 12.75 increase, meaning the monthly premium for the city would increase by $11,143 from $87,427 to $98,570 per month if the city opts to renew its current plan as is.
But Powell wasn’t satisfied — he continued to look at other possibilities, and ultimately came up with a Premium Saver Plan through AmFirst Insurance Company. A Premium Saver Plan is supplemental coverage that fills in the deductible and other cost-sharing holes, according to Powell. Through the use of a supplemental plan such as the Premium Saver Plan, the deductible is higher, which lowers the monthly premium. In the city’s case, choosing a combination of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Premium Saver Plan would result in a health insurance increase of just 6.12 percent, as compared to 12.75 percent, Powell told council members.
“What a premium saver plan does is it comes in and says we are looking at a way to lower your premiums — go back to your major medical insurance and change that deductible and raise it,” Powell explained. “The Premium Saver option is supplemental coverage to cover the gap so the employee doesn’t have to pay. Going with Premium Saver took the premium increase down from 12.75 percent to 6.12 percent.”
Powell presented two options to the city — renewing its Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance and adding the Premium Saver Plan with a deductible of $750 or renewing the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and adding the Premium Saver Plan with a deductible of $1,000. A third choice is to keep the exact same coverage the city currently offers employees; however, if council chooses that path, the increase in cost would remain at 12.75 percent. If council opts to go with either package that tacks on the Premium Saver Plan, employees will be required to carry two insurance cards instead of just one.
“I believe the process works very well,” Powell said of the Premium Saver Plan option. “With that being said — and I talked to Amby about this — no matter how well the process works, it’s only going to be as strong as the employees turning it in, so if you have an employee who doesn’t hand in both cards or a doctor who makes a mistake, there’s always a chance of questions coming back.”
Mayor David McCauley said the city will likely face even tougher decisions regarding health insurance in the future.
“We will also further the discussion about future tiering,” McCauley said Friday, following Wednesday’s meeting. “Potentially, at some point what we’ll probably consider is covering future employees only and then all or a portion of the premiums associated with spouses or family would be born by the employee. Employees would be treated differently depending on when they came on board with the city.”
McCauley said holding Wednesday’s meeting was integral to good decision-making.
“We wanted it to be digested by our supervisory folks first,” the mayor said. “It’s not one of those things you want to steamroll.”
Council is expected to discuss tiering health insurance for future employees, according to its agenda for the May 16 meeting.

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