Changes made to the health care benefits of Memphis city employees are officially back on the table after an outside review of an alternative health plan devised by employee labor unions.
The plan will get further review next week in a specially called meeting of the Memphis City Council’s personnel committee. On Tuesday, council members heard from consultants from Mercer and Cigna about the potential savings involved in the implementation of a high-deductible health plan proposed by the public labor unions.
The consultants could not agree on some key figures Tuesday and will spend the week communicating and sharing information ahead of next week’s meeting. Should their calculations agree and council members like what they hear, a new health insurance plan could be voted on by the full council in two weeks.
Since they passed the budget back in June, the council has continued to grapple with the fallout of the health plan changes included in the budget. The changes include increasing insurance premiums by 24 percent, cutting some spouses from the health insurance plan altogether, and cutting a 70 percent health insurance subsidy for some retirees.
Backlash to the cuts has been severe at times with public protests at Memphis City Hall and a massive work action that saw more than 500 police officers and 80 fire fighters collectively call in sick around the Independence Day holiday.
But as those protests were raging, union officials were busy crafting an alternative benefits proposal that would eliminate the premium increases, halt the cuts to retirees, and allow spouses to stay in the city plan.
The topic dominated much of the council’s committee debate Tuesday with a pair of two-hour sessions. but the constant talk of health care began to frustrate some council members. Council member Wanda Halbert said the council has already passed the changes and wondered why discussion continued.
“I know we already made a vote in the budget,” said council member Harold Collins. “But we owe it to the citizens and employees who work for us down to the last minute if we have to to come up with a plan that everyone can live with.”