After two straight days of emotions running high among Macon City Council members and Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration about proposed changes to the city’s health-care plan, there was more of a spirit of detente Wednesday.
At the council’s Employee Development and Compensation Committee meeting, about a dozen city retirees showed up to inform council members how a proposed premium increase for retired employees with dependents would affect their lives.
In passing the fiscal 2011 budget Tuesday night, the council postponed putting in place a plan that would have caused some retirees with dependents to pay as much as $906.50 in premiums per month, almost triple what they now pay.
The council approved the budget by maintaining the current health-care plan and giving the Reichert administration time to send out requests for proposals from other insurance providers as a way to find other savings. The city has estimated it would save $2.5 million a year if it adopts the proposed health-care plan.
Committee Chairman Charles Jones emphasized several times Wednesday that nothing had been set in stone concerning changes to the plan.
“I just want to be clear — these numbers are for information purposes only,” Jones said, indicating a study provided by city Finance Director Tom Barber and Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas.
Former Bibb County Commission Chairman Charlie Bishop, who is retired from the Macon Police Department, addressed the committee and broke down when he spoke of his late wife, Carolyn, who died from cancer. Carolyn Bishop worked in the city’s finance department and was afraid to quit her job because she was worried about losing her health benefits.
Charlie Bishop said her medicine and hospital visits ran into the thousands of dollars.
“I don’t care what you are doing, what you are doing isn’t right,” Bishop said. “Don’t throw these employees under the bus.”
Several other retirees gave similar testimony, telling committee members that their pensions wouldn’t cover a major increase in health-care costs.
The committee approved a resolution Wednesday that authorizes the administration to send out requests for proposals to other insurance providers. The city currently has a contract with Coventry Health Care to administer the health plan.
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, who voted against the budget Tuesday and has been a vocal opponent of the proposed health-care changes, acknowledged Wednesday that the city is in a difficult position given its financial constraints.
“I think we might have these disagreements, but everybody wants what’s best for the city,” she said. “We have to have a strong debate to reach a middle ground.”
Thomas said he had spoken with Jones earlier in the day to come up with some ideas and options.
“We have to come up with a compromise,” he said. “We can’t afford not to have a solution.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.