May 07, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
For some local municipalities, finding savings in health care costs this year meant preventing other, more painful cuts in other areas.
In the village of Jordan, Village Clerk Linda Boehm said switching to a new health care provider meant slight increases in co-payment fees but a $20,000 savings each year.
The village provides health care to five full-time employees and one retiree; three retirees are able to subsidize costs through medicare.
“We were looking for ways to save money,” Boehm said simply.
Jordan Mayor Dick Platten said this wasn’t the first time the village has sought a more affordable health care provider since he’s been in office, but it was the first time a switch created such a savings.
“This is the first time we’ve gotten into that kind of savings,” Platten said.
Platten said Trustee Lee Badman suggested the board contact the Greater Syracuse Chamber of Commerce in looking for alternative providers, which turned out to be a great move.
The board met with two representatives of Benefit Specialists of New York, who found the most cost effective plan comparable to what the village employees already received.
“They did just a nice job of being able to research and find a better way of doing it. Our employees are virtually at the same level, and overall the plans are very comparable,” Platten said.
A big change
The Camillus Town Board last month approved a switch from Excellus to United Health Care, which will save the town about $300,000 annually in health care costs for the approximately 100 employees.
Camillus Town Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan said the impetus for seeking a new provider actually came last year when Excellus initially raised the town’s rates, but that union negotiations prevented the town from securing a new provider.
This year, though, was a different story.
“Excellus had raised their rates 16 percent last year, and 22 percent this year – and there was no negotiating,” Coogan said. “We save considerably with this [new] plan … the savings were just too much to pass up.”
Unlike in Jordan, the new health care plans available to Camillus employees differ significantly from their previous option.
“It was a big change,” Coogan said. But the savings to the town and unions speaks for itself.
During board meeting, Coogan thanked the unions for cooperating with the town on the switch, which was made during contract negotiations, an admittedly sticky time to be changing benefits.
Coogan said one of the concerns of union workers was that the town would continue to change their health care providers whenever possible to save money, which she didn’t completely rule out.
“That was a concern. For this year and next year they know they’re locked into this plan,” Coogan said. She likened the process to buying a car – the board is always looking for a better deal, but if the current costs are acceptable, there’s no reason to change.
“Some years the cost is OK, but this year they wouldn’t move,” she added.
Coogan also said the town found savings in worker’s compensation and liability coverage.
Platten said because the village was able to save with health care, they didn’t have to find those savings in other areas when preparing the 2009-10 budget.
“I don’t know what we would have done for a plan B,” Platten said.
Coogan was certain cuts would have been made elsewhere if the health care hadn’t been slashed.
“There would have been other cuts, absolutely there would have been other cuts. We were right up against the wall,” Coogan said.
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