When Macon and Bibb County governments merge in January 2014, current city employees will probably pay a little less in health insurance premiums, while county employees will probably pay a little more.
Thats according to the new premiums endorsed Wednesday by the task force working on city-county consolidation. When city and county Human Resources employees compared existing plans, they found a significant difference between what workers for each government are now paying, said consultant Jimmy Hinson, employee benefits vice president from BB&T Insurance Services.
Those workers and BB&T consultants did their best to balance that out. They ended up with the formula of asking the new governments employees to pay 30 percent of their premiums, while the government itself will contribute 70 percent, Hinson said. They sought not only to balance the city-county discrepancy, but to make the cost comparable to that of workers at similar governments elsewhere.
Currently, city employees pay for 25 percent of their premiums, while the county simply contributed a set amount instead of a funding ratio, Hinson said. When analyzed, county workers paid a significantly lower share of their premiums than city workers, he said. The city and county havent changed employee contributions in three years, Hinson said.
The new insurance plans have three tiers. The base cost for individual coverage under the cheapest plan is $77 per pay period, but discounts for participating in wellness programs and abstaining from tobacco -- now available only to county workers -- can bring that down to $32, according to Hinsons presentation.
Full family coverage under the most generous plan would cost $242, but the discounts could bring that down to $197.
Premiums will be higher for retirees under age 65; that groups claim costs are almost half again as much as active employees, Hinson said. Those over 65 are under a different insurance system.
The new premium for the cheapest single coverage will be $196.50, but with wellness and tobacco discounts that falls to $99. Full family coverage under the most expensive plan will cost $662, or $565 with the discounts.
Altogether, the rate changes will add about $365,000 in 2014 to the $4 million that city and county employees are paying for insurance in 2013, Hinson said.
The task force unanimously accepted the premium recommendations. Information meetings for all city and county employees are to be held Oct. 15 and 16 in the Monument Room of the Macon Coliseum, with open enrollment Nov. 4-15, so coverage will be in place when the new government begins Jan. 1.
The task force formally chose State Bank & Trust Co. as the new governments basic banking service, but that choice came with some rare push back from the normally unanimous group.
That was the recommendation of the Finance Committee. That was not my personal recommendation here, said Macon City Councilman Tom Ellington.
He and former state Sen. Miriam Paris voted against the recommendation, while Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards abstained. Ellington had sought unsuccessfully to get the decision reopened -- not due to any disagreement with State Bank, but because he wanted the other five bidders for the service to give information on how they handled foreclosures in the city and county.
Some banks ordered residents out when they fell behind on mortgage payments but never filed foreclosure documents or took over maintenance themselves, creating a huge abandoned-housing problem for local officials, Ellington said. He asked all banks bidding on serving the new government to give hard numbers on their foreclosure practices, but as he predicted, once the Finance Committees choice was known, only State Bank responded, he said.
Their answer was partial, but Ellington said he was satisfied that State Bank behaved more responsibly than many others.
Mayor Robert Reichert said he and other task force members are sensitive to the issue, but only three months remain before consolidation, and banking services need to be ready before that to set up accounts and prepare to issue checks.
All of this takes more time than we might imagine, he said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.