Marion council OKs health plan that will cost 11 percent more

The city of Marion will be paying 11 percent more for employee health insurance following approval by the city council at its meeting Monday, Jan. 11.

Tim Oglesby of Blue Cross Blue Shield in Topeka answered questions and explained reasons for the increase.

?Part of it is because of your own usage and part of it is based on the pool you are in,? Oglesby told the council.

Under statute, the Kansas Legislature set up a pool that would entitle all employers across the state with 50 or fewer employees to a small-group rate, he said.

Based on fluctuation in the (state) pool and medical trends, that increase was 8 percent.

Usage in the city?s group came out to 11 percent, which is close to that trend, he said.

With 25 city employees electing to have the health insurance, that translates to an increase of $44.40 per person. Last year?s single premium was $399.27 and, effective March 1, the new single premium will be $443.67.

Currently, three employees have elected to include one of the other options.

Angela Lange, city clerk, said one employee has included a child; another a spouse and the third is carrying the family plan.

Councilors wanted to know the new insurance rates prior to the March 1 effective date in order to give employees time to switch if they weren?t interested in keeping their current coverage.

Councilor Stacey Collett asked Oglesby how the proposed health-care reform is going to affect insurance in the future.

?We will know more in the next 45 days,? Oglesby said, ?but companies are concerned about the public option.?

Unless there is a final mandate in the bill that everybody plays and everybody pays?referring to younger people having to buy into the plan?insurance carriers will not be able to hold down costs.

?It might surprise you,? he said, ?how many people between ages 18-25 only get their doctoring when they go to the emergency room. We (insurance companies) are trying to figure out what this playing field looks like, but it?s hard to tell.?

Mayor Mary Olson asked about prescription drug plans and changes in federal law regarding the way some statin drugs, which are used to improve blood cholesterol levels, will be treated.

Oglesby said doctors have been made aware that if patients can handle ?generic? brands of these medicines to improve cholesterol levels, then that?s what should be prescribed.

Olson asked what would happen, though, if a patient could not handle the generic form.

Oglesby responded that in those situations, the patient?s medication would be ?grandfathered? in. Otherwise, the prescription drug card would have a co-pay of $15, $30 or $45, depending on whether the medicine is generic or brand name.

Under the city?s prescription drug plan, no insured would pay more than the $45 co-pay, even if the medicine runs into the thousands of dollars, Oglesby said.

In other council business:

? Marty Fredrickson, streets, zoning director, said he has new employees cross sharing jobs so that more employees will be able to work in other areas if necessary.

? councilors talked about snow removal and how most residents moved their vehicles off the streets while the snow plows were working.

? Olson asked if the street department could look at some areas in town where the melting snow was causing slush problems.

? Olson asked Harvey Sanders, director of public works, if he had completed sidewalk specifications for Central Park. The park committee, she said, is wanting to get the job done by May, so they need a proposed plan soon.

? Doug Kjellin, economic development director, requested making 2010, ?Year of the Marion Entrepreneur.? To support that declaration, he said he has begun working on mock business plans for potential businesses that could be successful in the city.

Some of the those businesses could include outdoor supply store with hunting, fishing, camping and more; making pottery and ceramics; jet ski and boat rental; small engine repair and employment hiring service.

? Kjellin told councilors that ?Home For Our Troops,? which builds houses for severely injured veterans, was in Marion Jan. 11-12 to begin soliciting donations and help build Army Sgt. Ryan Newell and his family a house. Newell of Marion lost both legs while deployed in Afghanistan. He and wife Carrie have four children ages 3-11.

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