City wants to keep employee health care premium low

Eunice officials want to continue providing city employees a benefit that’s fast disappearing in most work places -- a liberal health insurance plan at very low individual cost.

The plan:

$30 co-pay when the employee visits a doctor;

$1,500 annual deductible in network; $3,000 out of network;

$4,500 annual out-of-pocket maximum (includes deductible).

The current cost to the employee: $26.94 monthly.

The City Council’s Insurance Committee has scheduled an employees’ meeting for 3 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the plan, options proposed and the cost.

The committee’s preference includes that rarest of occurrences in Eunice municipal affairs - Mayor Bob Morris and Alderwoman Chawana Fontenot agreeing.

Those two, Alderman Jack Burson, Treasurer Drusy Rougeou and Personnel Director Jackie Thibodeaux favor keeping the benefit plan as is.

To afford that, the city would pay about $130,000 more a year and the 100 or so employees in the plan would pay $10 more a month, an total employee contribution increase of about $12,000 for the contract year.

United Health Care proposed two alternative plans to the committee this past week. While the cost increase would have been lower with each, the benefits package in each case was more restrictive, including higher co-pays and higher deductibles.

“This is a benefit we provide as an incentive for people to come to work for us and to stay with us. I don’t think we can afford to reduce its provisions,” said Burson, and the others agreed.

Some concern was expressed that the $10 monthly increase might cause employees to consider dropping out of the plan.

Keeping employees in the plan is important for two reasons - first it provides them health care coverage, second 75 percent of the workforce is the enrollment target. There are about 135 eligible employees, according to Thibodeaux.

The committee and insurance representatives will attempt to convince employees of the false economy of such a decision, given the cost of treatment for one unforeseen illness.

Agents Pat Dossman and Dwight Jodan noted the value employees are getting under the city’s benefits package. They said state employees have essentially the same UHC plan, with workers paying $136 of the monthly premium cost, compared to the proposed $36.94 for Eunice employees.

The claims experience rating this past year was greater than in previous years, according to UHC representatives.

A normal-year quote calculation would have included a rate increase in the 13 percent range; the 29 percent hike quoted was a result of the extraordinary claims and the company’s estimation of potential claims on continuing illnesses.

Morris asked how much UHC paid Eunice employees on claims last year. While the calendar periods are not precise, UHC representatives said it paid about $380,000 in claims. Net annual payments by the city and employees were $456,100.

UHC noted the claims value before discounting with the providers involved was $770,000.

Fontenot asked the prospects of UHC adding Acadian Medical Center to the city plan’s network. Representatives replied that the insuror wants AMC in its network and that negotiations, they hoped, would soon resume.

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