About a dozen city of Macon retirees showed up Thursday to a City Council committee meeting for the latest revisions to proposed health-care benefits.
Appropriations Committee members heard a revised proposal put together by Finance Director Tom Barber and Chief Administrative Officer Thomas Thomas that would slightly raise contributions from active employees but would lower significantly the contributions of some retired employees in a previous proposal from Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration.
“We pooled all of the employees into a bigger pool, and that brought down the retirees’ costs substantially,” Thomas said.
Many retirees and some council members had expressed serious concerns with the administration’s proposed changes to the health-care plan, made necessary because the city is looking at an extra $2.5 million in costs for fiscal 2011.
Under the original proposal, which the council ultimately rejected, retirees with dependents would have seen significant monthly cost increases. Many of the retirees told council members the added costs were enough to wipe out their pensions.
Retirees with one dependent in the HMO program would have seen a cost increase from $337.50 per month to $906.50 per month under the administration’s first proposal.
Under the new proposal, which is still a work in progress and hasn’t yet been formally submitted to the council, those same retirees would see their costs increase to $366 per month — $29.50 more than what they pay now.
Retirees with family members would have seen an increase from $337.50 (plus $75 per family member) to $1,389.18 per month for the whole family under the first proposal. The new plan would bring that cost down to $588 a month for the family.
Barber said the administration’s original plan called for active and retired employees to pay 25 percent of the costs while the city would have been responsible for 75 percent. Retirees would have had to pay 100 percent of their dependents’ costs.
Under the proposed change, retirees and the city would split costs evenly, including dependent costs.
Councilwoman Elaine Lucas, who had been among the most vocal opponents of the original proposal, said Thursday the new proposal is a “step in the right direction.”
“These amounts are much more reasonable,” she said.
Councilman Charles Jones, chairman of the council’s Employee Development and Compensation Committee, became upset during the meeting, apparently confusing the plan presented by Barber and Thomas as a formal presentation to the Appropriations Committee.
Jones angrily said any formal plan should have been presented to his committee first.
After Jones stormed out, Thomas said Thursday’s presentation was made as a result of a request from Councilman Mike Cranford, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, at its last meeting to come up with alternative numbers.
Jones’ committee also is gathering information and will send out requests for proposals among health insurers in an attempt to come up with a better health plan.
Thomas said the administration is prepared to offer similar information that was requested when that committee next meets.
Cranford said it’s difficult to balance who would pay what amount into the health plan, since under the latest proposal, active employees would see an increase in their bi-weekly contributions.
“That’s a problem,” he said. “You just can’t change one line item. It will affect another group. It’s hard to find the right balance.”
But Thomas said the increase that would be paid by active employees under the proposal would be much less significant than what retirees would be facing.
In the latest proposal, active employees’ contributions increases would range from less than $5 per pay period to $24.
“We’re experimenting in different ways,” he said. “Then we’ll wait to hear from council.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.