Friday, September 17, 2004

The Cost of Care

City Council debates change in health care.

Posted on Fri, Sep 17, 2004 at 4:00 AM

During last week's City Council meeting, the city's human resources director, Dr. Lorene Essex, updated the council on the health-care committee's plan to change the city's health benefits vendor from CIGNA to United Healthcare. CIGNA has provided services to about 6,000 city employees for the past three years. In a report last month conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, the city's health-plan expenses were projected to increase by almost 15 percent. With the vendor change, cost increases would be less than 8 percent.

The council voted to delay the decision for two weeks to give city administrators time to present more information on the new provider plan. City benefits manager Pearl Gibson said that all council questions would be answered at the next presentation.

Also at issue is whether the council can even legally direct such decisions or if the mayor and the administrative offices have the right to make changes to the health-care plan without the council's consent.

Still, council members didn't seem to be deterred from becoming involved in the issue. "This is an economic issue, and I believe the council should have a position on it and take a vote on it," said councilman Rickey Peete. "The plan change equates to a $95 increase per month for families, and I want to see that addressed." Peete and other council members expressed concern about additional deductions under the new vendor.

Essex detailed several reasons for the change, including a lower bid by United and numerous customer complaints about CIGNA. CIGNA filed a bid protest with the city on August 27th. The company's contract with the city expires December 31st.•

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