Three Victoria City Employees Criticize Proposed Health Insurance Plan

Employees’ medical claim expenditures have increased in recent years, causing the health fund to deplete so significantly that the proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year allocates an additional $1 million for the health fund…………….

ARTICLE REFERRED BY JEFF EVANS

By Ciara McCarthy | cmccarthy@vicad.com

Aug 23, 2018

Three frustrated city employees bemoaned a current proposal for health insurance before City Council Thursday night, criticizing a potential change to the city’s health care plan.

Three officers with the Victoria Police Department begged the City Council not to switch to a new high-deductible health insurance plan, an option that’s currently being considered as part of the 2019 budget process.

Branden Allen, a police officer, said increasing deductibles would make it harder for him to keep living in Victoria.

“I’m not a big fan of the increase in the deductibles and in increasing the premiums,” Allen said. “It’s going to end up being less money in my paycheck every single week and making it harder to stay in Victoria and try to raise a family in Victoria.”

Allen and two other police officers addressed city officials during the council’s special meeting Thursday to discuss the proposed 2018-2019 budget.

Mayor Paul Polasek and the City Council spent most of the meeting discussing health care costs for the city and its employees and hearing concerns raised by the officers.

“There’s obviously some issues,” Councilman Rafael De La Garza said. “I have some grave concerns.”

Tuesday, the city manager’s office recommended replacing the city’s current health plan with a different high-deductible health plan, which would offer employees two different types of plans to choose from.

Under a high-deductible plan, city employees would have to pay their medical costs out of pocket until they reached the plan’s deductible, at which point insurance would kick in and cover its share of the expense. For example, under one of the proposal’s options, city employees would have to pay $1,750 on out-of-pocket medical expenses before insurance kicked in to cover the majority of future medical bills.

Right now, city employees can choose between a high-deductible plan or what’s known as a Preferred Provider Organization, better known as PPO, plan. The PPO plan has lower or no out-of-pocket expenses.

During Thursday’s meeting, City Council members said they wanted to go back to the drawing board before changing the city’s health plan.

City manager Charmelle Garrett said staff could come back to the council with other options but noted that the money to keep the health fund strong would have to come from somewhere.

Cheryl Marthiljohni, the director of human resources for the city, cautioned that a change was necessary in order to keep the city’s health fund reserves at a safe level.

“We need to make some changes that are pretty significant with regards to what’s happening in our health fund,” Marthiljohni said.

Employees’ medical claim expenditures have increased in recent years, causing the health fund to deplete so significantly that the proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year allocates an additional $1 million for the health fund.

“Ideally we’d like a reserve that’s (able to last about) 12 months,” Garrett said. “Typically, the health fund tries to stand on its own. We try not to pull money out of the general fund, like we had to do this year.”

The City Council will continue to discuss next year’s health plan for city employees and other aspects of the proposed 2019 budget at future meetings. The next special meeting to discuss the budget is scheduled for Tuesday night.

City Council will vote on a final 2019 budget in September, before the city’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

 

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