JONESVILLE — The Jonesville Town Council discussed the town budget and potential insurance plans for town workers Monday evening. The board compared rates and benefits from both United Health Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield to decide which plan would give the most to the town’s 22 full-time employees.
According to Town Manager Scott Buffkin, only three companies offer coverage to public sector employers in this part of the state. United Health Care and Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) were the two companies discussed that evening. The third company, Aetna, was tossed aside because their rates were a third higher than where the town already was.
The insurance is offered to all full-time employees, including police officers, the public works staff, the water treatment staff, and the office staff for a total of 22 employees.
Last year the town was with United Health Care through the North Carolina League of Municipalities. The rates for the old plan have gone up from $10,762.64 to $11,265.29. During the meeting, the town looked at three different plans for United Health Care and four plans for Blue Cross Blue Shield, comparing rates, benefits and deductibles.
Several employees in Jonesville have had trouble with the United plan and Buffkin gave his opinions on why some people may want a change in health insurance.
“I have been fortunate enough that I have not had to use the insurance other than for a yearly checkup so I’ve not had the same experiences some of our employees have had,” said Buffkin. “Some of our folks have had to change doctors because their doctor didn’t accept United Health Care. That’s been the one issue I’ve heard more than any — that the Blue Cross Blue Shield network of doctors is best. Now, looking at what you get for your money, United is a better deal.”
The United plan after being renewed would cost $11,265.29 a month compared to BCBS $12,526.49 a month.
One detail of health insurance that was fiercely discussed was what benefits would help workers the most. Jonesville Police Chief Roger Reece discussed his opinions on how different members have had different experiences.
“I’m spending about $70 a month on medicine right now. We got some guys who are on medications that cost $400 a month out of pocket. That out-of-pocket expense is what we need to look at the most to make a decision. The out-of-pocket expenses and the medications for the employees are the two costs that have the biggest impact.”
“It’s going to affect everyone differently,” said Buffkin. “If you’ve got someone taking lots of medications, then the one with the lower prescription costs is going to save them more. However, if in some situation someone was to have a surgery or a major medical, then their maximum amount of pocket is going to be $4,000 instead of $35,000. You’ve got to think, what’s going to affect the most people?”
While many believe that the surgery prices could be expensive for workers, they believe that most people would not be as subject to their affects as costs for medications and doctor visits.
“Maybe the surgery is going to cost you more out of pocket but most of the people are spending that monthly fee going to the doctor and buying their medicine and it’s costing them more out of pocket,” said Reece. “That’s what they’re complaining about as well as not being able to use their doctor in town due to them not accepting United.”
The new plan will cost $150,317.88 annually, around $15,000 higher to the town’s old plan of $135,183.48. While the new plan will cost the town more to use, the benefits provide cheaper costs for office visits, urgent care co-pays and deductibles than the town’s old plan. PCP office visits would cost $15 compared to the old plan of $35. Specialty office visits would cost $30 compared to $75. Urgent care co-pays would cost $30 compared to $100.
This is the third year the town has changed insurance plans and some members were hoping the town could try to stick with a plan in the near future for stability.
“The thing I can say about benefits is benefits are part of the salary,” said Tim Collins of the Jonesville Water Department. “If you’ve got good benefits, you’re going to keep people around. And these aren’t great benefits, but they’re a heck of a lot better than what we’ve got now. I know we need to shop around every year, but we should try to stay with the same place as long as we could instead of swapping every year.”
A motion was made to adopt the option recommended by the supervisors for Blue Cross Blue Shield and adjust the general fund to be compensated. The motion was seconded and the plan was accepted.
“The benefits are somewhat better than the program we’re currently on,” said Buffkin. “The out-of-pocket amounts for the employees for doctor visits and prescription drug coverage are all lower with this plan so in that way it will lower the amount employees are having to spend directly.”
“I’ll say this for my employees,” said Tim Collins, “they would rather see a better health care insurance than have a two percent increase. I’ll say that much. Naturally, we’d like that two-percent increase, but if we had a choice, I think we’d like that better insurance.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.