Health care cheaper for city employees

Published 11:26 pm Wednesday, September 23, 2009

City employees have seen their insurance premiums go down slightly in the past months, Suffolk officials said Wednesday.

Health and dental premiums decreased an average of 1.7 percent, Ronnie Charles, the city’s human resources director, said.

“Coverage, for the most part, is staying the same,” Charles said.

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Health insurance premiums will be decreasing about 1.2 percent, while dental premiums will decrease about 2.2 percent.

The city is pulling off the feat in a tough economy, because claims have been low in recent years, Charles said.

“We’ve had a pretty good claim history with the insurance company, Anthem,” Charles said. “That’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to maintain what we’ve done. We have a workforce that hasn’t submitted a lot of claims.”

Charles said the decrease is especially important, because the city was unable to provide raises this year, after closing a budget deficit of $9.3 million.

“We’re very mindful of the effect such an increase could have on employees,” he said. “We did our due diligence to keep things as level as we possibly could.”

Charles told council the savings could be used to establish a formal wellness program for the city’s employees, looking at claim history to see what issues need to be addressed. Such a program could result in further cost savings, he added.

Council members lauded the premium decreases and the wellness program idea.

“To find other ways for our employees to benefit is really important,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said.

The city council retreat continues Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Topics will include utilities, downtown revitalization, fire and police initiatives, light rail and transportation funding. The retreat is being held on the third floor of the Health and Human Services building, 135 Hall Avenue. It is open to the public.