Jacksonville city employees may avoid increasing health insurance costs
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Oct 10, 2013 | 3187 views |  0 comments | 80 80 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — The cost of providing insurance to city workers in Jacksonville will increase in January, but employees might not have to pay for the change.

The 26 city employees with family coverage pay $451 each month. Due to an increase in premiums they are at risk of having to pay $30 more each month beginning in January, but at a City Council finance committee meeting Wednesday council members said they will ask the city to absorb that cost. It’s a decision that went against the recommendation of the city’s human resources specialist, Joy Cox.

“That’s a lot of money for insurance,” Cox said. “And, we’re not the highest-paid people anyway. So, I’d like us to pick up a little bit more of the cost.”

Cox presented four recommendations to the committee about how the city should address the increase in premiums. They included increasing the city contribution by $10, $30 or $50 per month. At the meeting she said she favored charging employees a flat $400 monthly fee, a move that would cost the city $81 more per month for each employee.

The city currently pays $37,800 per year to provide health insurance to employees with family plans. Its share of each employee’s monthly payment is $544.

The least expensive of Cox’s four recommendations, which differed by cost, would have required the city to pay $2,520 more each year to provide insurance to employees with family plans. The most expensive of her recommendations would have cost the city about $20,000 more for the coverage.

The option the council committee approved will later be submitted to the entire council for a vote. The city will pay $31 more each month, allowing the employees to pay a flat-monthly rate of $450, for a savings to city employees of $12 per year.

The last time the city increased its portion of the contribution was in 2004 when it decided to pay $25 more per month for family insurance plans. At that time 38 employees had family plans.

“Four-hundred and fifty dollars a month is hard on our employees,” Cox said.

City employees’ insurance is administered through the State Employees Insurance Board’s local government health care plan.

Jacksonville employs about 160 people on a full-time basis. According to policy, it provides health insurance only to people who work 30 hours or more each week.

The majority of the city’s full-time employees, about 125 of them, have opted for individual health insurance coverage. Individual coverage costs $394 a month and will increase by $20 to $414 in January, and the city pays 100 percent of that premium.

Based on an informal survey Cox believes about 30 full-time employees with individual coverage also have health insurance through a spouse. To save money the city’s financial control officer, Jarrod Simmons, recommended giving employees with double coverage a financial incentive to drop their individual plan.

Following his recommendation, the committee agreed to develop such an incentive package. Under the terms of the recommendation, the committee will ask the entire council to consider giving individual employees $200 a month to drop their individual coverage.

If all eligible employees opt to take the incentive, it would save the city about $73,440 a year Simmons said. He added that the city does not know how many employees will opt into that plan, and said he thinks some who are eligible will retain their individual coverage through the city.

Simmons said the incentive package is a win-win for the city and its employees.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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