Struthers faces health-care hike

By Jeanne Starmack


The city’s cost-containment committee is wrestling with how to pay for a 6.9 percent increase in health-care benefits.

At issue, said city Auditor Tina Morell, is how to absorb the increase while still keeping the city’s cost at or near $1,200 a month for family coverage. That figure is in the city’s unions’ contracts.

Last year, Morell said, city workers’ co-pay was 6 percent for family coverage, or $75 a month, rather than 7 percent, or $85, which meant the city was paying $1 a month more per family than it should have been.

The committee agreed to that because the city had switched to a four-tier health-coverage system that carved out spouses who could get coverage elsewhere. Allowing workers to contribute the lower co-pay was a concession for that, she said.

Morell said since Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s increase, the same family plan will cost $1,364. She said that if workers still paid only $75, the city will absorb a cost of $59 a month per plan.

“This is not so reasonable an amount of money,” she said.

A plan to offer the same family coverage with a better dental benefit at a cost of $107.40 a month has fallen through because the city doesn’t know yet if it qualifies for the plan and because union members working at the wastewater plant won’t know before the end of the year if they will accept the dental plan in their negotiations.

If the issue isn’t settled by the end of the year, the city will have to accept a 17 percent increase from Anthem, which was the company’s original offer before the city’s health- insurance broker negotiated the 6.9 percent.

Ray Greenwood, committee chairman and the police union’s representative on the committee, said the panel had been planning to vote Tuesday on whether to split the cost of the co-pay increase with the city.

Now, he and other members of the committee who represent workers will tell those workers about two other plans that are possible.

Those plans would cost workers with families $85 a month, but they would include higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Under one plan, the city could pay an additional $4.75 a month per family coverage over the $1,200, Morell said. In the other, the city would spend $13.22 under that cap. One of those two plans would be the city’s main plan.

The current plan, which would include the $164.75 co-pay for workers with families, would be an alternative. It would only raise the co-pay by $5 for employees with spouses or employees with children and by $2 for single people.

The cost-containment committee, which is composed of representatives from union and nonunion workers and the city administration, is meeting again at 3 p.m. today to work on the issue. The city has 71 employees on its health-care plan, with 16 of those under family coverage, Morell said.