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Carrollton council considers plan to reduce insurance costs

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

Carrollton City Council will vote today on a proposed change to health insurance benefits for city employees.

Council will hold a special meeting in City Hall at noon to make up for the regular meeting, which had been scheduled for Monday. That meeting was cancelled due to lack of quorum.

During its Nov. 24 meeting, Mayor Dwight Louden asked council to revisit a policy established in 2007, in which city employees were encouraged to switch from the city’s health plan to plans offered by their spouses’ employers.

Carrollton employees who were able to switch received $100 extra in their paychecks each month, in return.

At the time, it was not mandatory – employees could choose to stay with the city’s insurance or go with insurance offered by their spouse’s employers.

If passed today, six remaining city employees who opted last year to stay with the city’s health plan will be forced to remove their spouses from the city's plan, if their spouses are working and have access to health insurance coverage.

The plan was recommended to Louden by the city’s insurance broker. Louden said in a phone interview yesterday that the city faces increases in other employee benefits, and said he is hoping this measure will save taxpayers money.

Last year, when the option was offered, seven or eight of the city’s employees switched, saving  $25,000 to $30,000 on the city’s health insurance premiums, Louden said yesterday.

He is unsure how much the city will save this time around, but if all six employees are able to switch to other plans, the city would save $200 per month per employee.

The city pays about $300 each month in insurance premiums for each employee covered. Employees who switched last year received $100 monthly in compensation for making the switch. Employees who go off the plan this time also will receive that same compensation, Louden said.

Louden said the six remaining employees work in the mayor’s office, the police department and dispatch.

Louden said employees with families will be able to continue insuring their children, even if they opt out. He said primary insurance between the employee and spouse will be determined by date of birth. If the city employee’s birthday comes before the spouses', he or she is considered primary, and the city will continue to provide health insurance for their children.

“We want everyone to be covered by insurance,” Louden stressed. “It may be our own, or it may be the spouses'. But we want everyone covered.”

Louden said he received word that the city next year faces an increase in retirement payments for its employees, from 13.5 percent to about 17.5 percent.

“And we know insurance is going to go up again, too,” he said. “We are always looking to save money on insurance.”