The council, during a called meeting Monday night, first changed their agent of record to the Benefit Planning Group of Cartersville. City Manager Kevin McBurnett then directed the council to the projected deficit.
He said his original budget calculations were made based on what the city had paid the previous year and did not take into account the possibility of greater-than-expected cost increases. His budget accounted for a 15 percent rise in costs rather than the 18 to 19 percent the city was seeing in the returned quotes from its provider.
Emerson, he said, has always paid 100 percent of the insurance costs for its full-time employees. At the moment, the city has 18 full-time employees.
Following extended discussions about the city’s options, which included a rejected idea to give Emerson employees an amount of money to purchase healthcare on the public exchanges and another rejected option to have the employees contribute to their healthcare costs, the council accepted a proposal from Coventry Health Care.
Under the new agreement, which goes into effect Nov. 1, Emerson employees will no longer have the option of taking an insurance buyout from the city.
“We have dropped the buyouts because we didn’t think we’d be able to afford the plan,” said McBurnett after the meeting. “If we didn’t drop the buyouts we were going to have to go to a higher deductible plan, a plan that’s not as rich for all employees.”
McBurnett added that city employees took advantage of the buyout so they maintained control over their money, and he understood that. However, he said the city council made its decision based on what was best for the city as a whole.
The adopted plan has a deductible of $2,000 for individuals. It also includes long-term disability coverage, which Emerson has never offered before, McBurnett said.
Emerson had also covered families and spouses under its plans, and that coverage was being threatened by higher rates. Employees who wished to keep that coverage took on a higher deductible — $7,500 — to keep the city’s payments at the same level as the $2,000 deductible plan.
“For those that elect, or have elected already to go to the higher deductible plan, they are doing so so they can get the lower rates for family and spouse,” McBurnett said.
The Emerson City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at city hall.