Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Plans Ease Sting of City Benefits Cuts

Posted By on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 at 5:22 PM

New plans emerged Tuesday at Memphis City Hall to ease the pain of employee and retiree benefit cuts that came with the new city budget.

Officials from Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s administration brought a plan to ensure retirees and some employee spouses will have access to “quality, affordable” health care insurance.

The Memphis Fire Fighters Association and Memphis Police Association brought a new health care insurance plan that would supplant the city’s current plan. The new plan would stop a 24 percent hike to insurance premiums for current employees and restore health insurance subsidies for retired city employs.

This plans came to light during the regular quarterly meeting of the Memphis City Council’s health care oversight committee. The meeting was packed in light of the council’s recent decision to change benefits for city retirees and employees.

In the audience were city employees wearing shirts that showed their support for Memphis police and fire fighters. But council member and committee chairman Edmund Ford Jr. warned the group to mind their manners.

Ford
  • Ford
“This is not a pep rally or anything of that matter,” Ford said. “If the chair sees that transpiring, I will give one warning. If that warning is ignored I will ask (the sergeant at arms) to escort you out of this room. I also have the full authority to adjourn this meeting and we will re-convene it again in three months.”

Wharton’s plan is called the Healthcare Assurance Plan. It provides an array of options for retirees to help them get insurance if their city-sponsored plan is cancelled. This options include Medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and a 25 percent subsidy for some retirees. Retirees without some kind of Medicare plan will remain on their city-sponsored health plan, so will retirees who were disabled in the line of duty and the spouses and eligible dependents of employees killed in the line of duty.

The plan would also set up a free clinic for employees and retirees at the corner of Union and McLean. Participants could get medical check-ups and prescription drugs at no cost.

Also, the plan would establish a $2 million trust fund to provide assistance employees and retirees with financial hardships. That fund already has a $1 million promise from Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and a $550,000 promise from Cigna. Technical assistance has been promised from Saint Francis Hospital, Baptist Health Care Corp., Regional One Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee.

The administration will host a series of 13 meetings across Memphis to educate employees and retirees about the Healthcare Assurance Plan.

The fire fighters union presented a new healthcare plan that restore all retirees to the city plan, would allow all spouses of employee to stay on the plan, keep the 70/30 payment split with the city and employees. The high deductible plan would have employees pay more out of pocket before insurance started paying on their medical bills.

A union official said the new plan should lower monthly premium rates by $150 per month. Implementing the plan would save the city $24.6 million each year.

The union plan will be introduced to the council’s personnel committee in 30 days. Any change to city healthcare plans must be reviewed and voted on by the city council.

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