City considering changing health insurance
SHAMOKIN - The city clerk says Shamokin could save about $200,000 with a change in health insurance providers.
Health insurance currently costs the city about $600,000 annually. Steve Bartos, city clerk, says projections showing 10-percent yearly increases could push that cost above $1 million by 2017.
Shamokin currently belongs to Pennsylvania Municipal Health Insurance Cooperative, described as a umbrella group of municipal entities that pools its resources to receive, in theory, better health insurance rates. Capital BlueCross is the city's health care provider through PMHIC.
"Choices that are made in the next month or two will impact the next four years and whether or not the city stays solvent," Bartos said, adding that a change in health insurance could create a budget surplus down the road.
The agency principal and vice president of BSI Corporate Benefits, an employee benefits consulting firm with offices in Bethlehem and Detroit, visited city council's monthly workshop Wednesday to pitch its services. Its local clients include Line Mountain and Southern Columbia Area school districts. It also insures members of United Auto Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Anthony DaRe, agency principal, said national health care reform pushed by the Obama administration will spur "explosive increases" to municipal health care costs, negatively impacting employee salaries and public services.
He encouraged the city to get ahead of the curve by switching providers now.
BSI's services would come at a price of $1,100 monthly. Information provided Wednesday promised analysis of the city's current health plan and conduct a full market review to find a plan providing "best-in-class benefits and pricing." It also would work with union leadership on benefit education and potential changes or enhancements, along with establishing a employee wellness program.
The city contracted with Weiss-Schantz Agency Inc. in 2011 to provide liability insurance for city buildings, vehicles, equipment and workers compensation, realizing significant savings. Bartos said he became aware of BSI through his relationship with Weiss-Schantz representatives.
Six months notice must be given to PMHIC if the city wishes to terminate its existing contract. That gives city leadership until June 1 to file notice. If a change were to be made, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
Councilmen and the mayor are expected to review BSI's proposal and make a decision in April.