Saturday, October 29, 2011

City Health Insurance: Month Late & Dollar Short?

San Angelo Human Resources and Risk Management Director Lisa Marley will present health insurance bids to City Council this Tuesday.  The City's health insurance Request for Proposal HR-02-11, originally specified a council presentation on October 4.  Besides being a month late, the city plans to spend no new money on health insurance in 2012.  Agenda item #11 states:

a. Discussion of proposals submitted for Request for Proposal HR-02-11 for benefits regarding health, dental, vision, basic life/AD&D, voluntary life/AD&D, post-65 retiree health and flexible spending accounts.

b. Consideration of selecting Benefit Providers related to Request for Proposal HR-02-11 and authorizing staff to negotiate a contract, and authorizing the City Manager to execute said contract and any related documents

As the City budgeted no new money for health insurance, bidders had to be creative.  How much did they slash coverage levels?  How much will the City shift in annual medical costs to employees (out-of-pocket)?

Given the city's obtuseness on the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP), I don't expect leaders to come clean on such matters.  With Retired Police Chief Russell Smith busy writing a book, someone will have to delve into the details to get the complete picture.  I helped Russell with research in the past, but am severely time constrained for the next month.

Here's my wish:  Lisa Marley would answer questions Russell or I would normally offer.  Russell might ask for the third year in a row, "What's the real agenda here?  C'mon, fess up."  One might expect the city to offer a clear motivation to San Angelo citizens, especially given COSA's organizational chart.
Is Mayor New encouraging more retirees to return to the workforce to garner affordable health insurance for dependents?  Is he using health insurance to get Shannon to provide payments in lieu of taxes, known as PILOT money?

Who will be impacted by decreased coverage levels, by how much?  How many employees will need to change primary care doctors and specialists, once the city picks a side, Shannon or Community, in our divided healthcare town?  How fast will they need to find that new doctor given open enrollment is slated for the week before Thanksgiving?

Will early retirees ever see Marley's 2010 promise of "lower premiums or better benefits"?  Since the city qualified for ERRP, early retirees paid through the nose for dependent coverage in 2011 and face benefit cuts in 2012.

Despite the city's "concerted effort to involve employees and retirees in the process for 2012," retirees weren't involved until bids were ready to be reviewed, i.e. far too late in the game to influence budget policy or benefit design.  The four retirees include Stephen Brown, David Hermes, Curtis Milbourne and Teresa Special.  Maybe they can advocate for the use of ERRP funds to ease last year's severe pain.

Final thought:  Why does the city dangle a new time off benefit around health insurance changes?  Last year, it was a Veterans' Day holiday, a seemingly incongruous offering by Councilwoman Charlotte Farmer given the City's strapped finances.  This year it's time off in return for United Way participation at a “care share”, “double care share”, or greater level.  Why is the city prepared to spend over $57,000 on increased time off but nothing for health insurance?

I find the reference to double "care share" symbolic, as it could apply to 2012 out-of-pocket medical care costs for employees.  Should anyone wish to delve into the agenda packet, it is below.  As usual, it's light on the details.

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