The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 24, 2012

City tables insurance proposals

By Scott Levine
Associate Editor

CLINTON — A reworking of city insurance plans will go back to the drawing board, but not before bargaining units are asked to get involved.

Three separate resolutions were approved Tuesday by the Clinton City Council involving health insurance coverage.

Council members unanimously approved to use the proposed changes as a template for future negotiations, seek to open negotiations with bargaining units that are already under contract and delay implementing the changes for non-bargaining employees until a future date.

Councilman Paul Gassman, ward 4, was adamant about opening up negotiations with employees in bargaining units.

“We should open up the contracts now,” Gassman said. “We don’t want to wait another year.

“If we get it done now, and they (employees) say ‘no’ now, we know where they’re coming from. It’s not fair to these people (non-bargaining employees) to take it in the shorts for a year.”

The only bargaining unit that is open for contract negotiations in 2013 are firefighters. Other union employees are under contract until 2014.

But Council members still want those employees to listen to the city’s proposal.

“We might as well open the door and start talking to the bargaining units…it’s inevitable,” At-Large Councilman John Rowland said.

The changes include two options developed from meetings with non-bargaining employees and city staff. Administration officials proposed a choice featuring a health savings/high deductible plan that would include deductibles of $2,500 for singles and $5,000 for family, and a contribution from each employee. The other option would be a PPO plan with a deductible of $750 for single and $1,500 for family, and a 10 percent employee premium contribution.

But those two meetings weren’t enough to give a fair consensus, At-Large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf said.

“Some wanted these plans, but some wanted to continue the conversations,” Graf said. “We need to have more information.”

Those conversations will continue with city employees until a final decision is made, which should be brought back to the Council in the spring.

Senior Building Inspector Jim Gustin hoped that more people will be involved in the discussion during the next few months.

“The two options being recommended will save the city the most money and hurt the workers the most,” Gustin said.

 This year, the city had a 28 percent increase in health insurance renewal, and the cost per employee was $17,758 according to a cost/plan design survey. The industry average is $10,612.

Also, the city is in the process of needing to show progress based on a a summary of plan performance that showed the total cost of the plan through the first three months of fiscal year 2013 were higher than the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.