CLEARWATER – Health insurance can be expensive, whether the insured or his employer pays the premiums. On Oct. 18, the city of Clearwater approved a measure that is expected to reduce the cost of health insurance for its 1,480 full-time employees.
If the city had stayed with its current Cigna HealthCare insurance plan, premiums would have gone up nearly 25 percent from their current $13 million per year, Joe Roseto, the city’s human resources manager told the Clearwater City Council, and plans that would maintain the current premium were “really not viable” because of the reduced benefits they offered. Rather than going along with that increase, a benefits committee, composed of city authorities and representatives of the employees’ unions, decided to try a partially self-funded insurance plan for 2013.
Now is a good time to do it, Roseto said, because studies have shown that since the city established a health clinic where employees can go for preventative care, the workforce is getting healthier and the amount spent on medical care is dropping. For fiscal year 2013, it is expected to be $10.8 million. If the partially self-funded plan works as well as expected, Roseto added, some of the savings will be passed along to employees in the future.
“In conjunction with the city’s interest in promoting greater self-responsibility and accountability on the part of employees in managing their health in return for the city taking on greater risk and the possibility of increasing its contributions to medical insurance costs, the city presented its benefits committee with two proposed plan options to be implemented as part of a self-funded arrangement that would detail the requirement of employee participation in a personal health assessment through the city’s health center in order to receive an incentive in the form of either lower rates or a richer schedule of benefits, in addition to the fully-insured proposals from the major carriers.”
The new plan will actually be two plans in one. Employees who take an “assessment,” which is actually just a blood test, will be allowed in the top tier, even if they fail the test. Those who do not take the test will be forced into a plan “less rich with benefits,” Roseto said.
“We’re trying to make it as easy as we can,” Roseto said of taking the assessment test. Employees can go to the clinic or the health fair, or medical professionals will go to each city department and draw the blood of employees who request it.
The city will continue the same percentage of coverage it had under the old plan. It pays 100 percent of the insurance premiums of full-time city employees, 75 percent of the premiums for a full-time employee and one dependent, and 68 percent of the coverage for the employee and his or her family.
The city does not pay for vision or dental insurance for its employees or their dependents, but it has an arrangement that allows them to purchase that coverage through a Cigna group policy. Even though the premiums on that insurance are expected to rise 3.1 percent in the next 24 months, it is probably still cheaper than the employees could get on their own.