Health insurance switch saves Portage $1 million

2013-12-28T00:00:00Z Health insurance switch saves Portage $1 millionJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The city has been battling health insurance costs for years.

The latest move, however, could save the city upwards of $1 million in 2014.

When the remaining bargaining contracts are approved, all city employees will receive their health insurance through Operating Engineers 150 Health and Welfare Fund.

Until now, several providers have covered city employees and the city has been self insured for excessive health care claims. Some employee groups were paying premiums, while others were not.

"Ultimately 150 made us an offer the city can't refuse," said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham.

Stidham said health insurance through Local 150's fund will cost the city $1.4 million less for active employees in 2014.

Stidham said they went back to their present health insurance administrators and asked them to run different scenarios. While they could find lower cost insurance, the cost to the city was still higher than the plan offered by Local 150's fund.

Their plan, however, doesn't cover retirees. The city approved hiring Miller Financial Group to work with non-union retirees and recently approved funding those retirees health insurance. The city will pay 75 percent of the retired employees health insurance premiums if they are not working and 50 percent if they are working for a company which provides health insurance.

The cost for retiree insurance to the city will be about $350,000 in 2014, said Stidham.

In addition, employees will no longer have to pay premiums for health or dental insurance. That, said Stidham, will be like giving employees now paying premiums a $50 to $100 boost on their pay checks each month.

Stidham also believes the Local 150 insurance will provide "richer benefits" for city workers than their present coverage.

For all but the street and sanitation department employees, the city will pay monthly premiums of $600 for a single insured and $1,200 for a family. Street and sanitation employee premiums are a bit higher, at $710 for a single and $1,735 for a family, because they are included in an older plan that does continue to cover retirees from that department.

Those premiums will increase by 3 percent in 2015 and no more than 10 percent in 2016.

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