2018-10-11 / Front Page

City will consider employee insurance, service delivery in upcoming meetings

The City of Washington is in the midst of evaluating how it will offer health insurance to its employees for the coming year and will continue to study the alternatives for discussion at a called meeting of the City Council scheduled for next Wednesday, October 17, at 1 p.m.

Similarly, as city leaders continue to wrestle with the Service Delivery Strategies between the county and its municipalities, a called meeting has been set for Thursday, October 18, at 9 a.m. in order for council members to meet with representatives from the consulting firm. Following that meeting, the city, the county, and others will meet on October 22 for further discussions concerning service delivery.

For 2018, the City of Washington’s health insurance was provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield at a saving over the previous company’s plan. But, during 2018, according to Blue Cross, the company paid $2.17 in claims for every $1 it received in premiums. That resulted in an increase of 66.18 percent in the rate proposal for 2019.

City Administrator Sherri Bailey investigated various modifications in coverage plans and offered some results for council members to consider at last Monday’s regular meeting of the council. She said she had checked with other companies too, all of which turned out to be unavailable for one reason or another. “So Blue Cross Blue Shield is our only option,” she said.

Outlining a number of options from base coverage to high coverage, different deductibles, individual coverage versus dependent coverage, etc. Bailey presented her findings to the council and asked for suggestions.

The council took no action because the members wanted more information and figures in order to make the decision that would be best for city employees while still being workable within budget limits. Choices mentioned ranged from the city paying 100 percent of the insurance and absorbing the rate increase to paying a lesser percentage of the premium and requiring each employee to pick up the difference. There was consideration of paying 100 percent with the understanding that there would be no pay raises during the year, thereby letting pay raises be made in the form of increased insurance payments. There was also consideration of whether to offer family or dependent coverage at all.

Those options and questions will be the subject of the called meeting on October 17.

The council approved the hiring of Retail Strategies, an Alabama firm, to do a study of the retail business community in the city “to find out why retail outlets left Washington.” Main Street Director Elizabeth Elliott explained that the firm has extensive data and research capability making it “probably the best bet” in determining strategies for retail recruitment.

In other business, the council voted to update the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.

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