CLEWISTON -- City of Clewiston officials approved a new employee health care plan for fiscal year 2021-2022 during a special Board of Commissioners meeting Aug. 23.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to sign with Florida Blue (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) which offered more options and a better price than current provider United Health Care provided through the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust.
The city will continue with Reliance Standard for long-term disability, life and accident insurance.
“I feel this is really good news for our budget and this will allow us to wrap up and balance the budget,” City Manager Randy Martin said, adding that with a new carrier employees will need as much time as possible to make their coverage selections during the open enrollment period.
Commissioners were facing an 11.5% increase through UHC and a $127,538 cumulative budget impact for the upcoming fiscal year.
The initial budget estimate for draft budget preparation for the upcoming fiscal year had projected a maximum of 7% rate increase.
So Martin got to work with Gloria Rosen, the city’s benefits consultant to find options.
The board looked at Martin’s comparisons between UHC's proposal and Blue Cross's which showed UHC would have an $86,512 cumulative budget impact, offer two plan options and would cost the city 7.8% more than current rates. Blue Cross’s offer would have a $51,564 cumulative impact on the budget, offered multiple plans and cost about 4.6% overall above current rates.
The new insurance will not cover any out-of-network services, Rosen said, adding that Blue Cross has 27,000 doctors and all major hospitals in its network.
Deductibles will go up from the current $500, but the co-pays are lower.
“I just think we’re working really hard to try to have things be equitable for all the departments as we move forward to make sure that we have what we need,” Mayor Kristine Peterson said.
“The employees need to have a raise. I can’t move away from that it’s time. And so we give a raise and then we take it away so you can pay to keep your low deductible.”
Martin said employees can choose from three plans with Blue Cross that have overall lower costs than the existing UHC plan, with one plan offering a zero deductible, and those savings will mean the city can provide raises for employees.
Commissioner Mali Gardner asked about reducing the disparity of employees the insurance premiums and if Martin could come up with recommendations on how to address that for next year’s fiscal budget.
Martin said he’s planned to seek proposals well in advance of next year’s renewal date to take a thorough look at available options.
“Some of the newer options that are out there for coverage that some of our employees may be very attracted to,” he said. “Right now this is a very narrow offering but we tailored it close to what we have because those other things take much longer to advance and evaluate and educate your employees rather than waiting to the open enrollment period just before you renew.”
Martin said after the meeting he was pleased the commissioners reached a consensus over the new plans now.
The proposals came in later than usual and that put a time crunch getting the open enrollment period going, so time was of the essence.
“It will give more time to orient the employees to the new plans so they can make informed decisions in the next few weeks,” he said.
The new plan also benefits taxpayers by keeping costs as reasonable as possible.
“The taxpayers won’t see an additional burden to pay for,” he said. “We have limited resources … and this is fairly close to our current plan and the lowest possible cost to employees.”