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Augusta seeks solutions for rising health care costs

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Augusta employees can expect to pay more for health insurance next year and get less coverage.

The city's health care premiums will balloon 37 percent in 2011 to $25.7 million, a $7 million increase over this year's premiums for the same coverage, according to the city's employee benefits consultants, Benalytics of Marietta, Ga.

To reduce the increase, the commission was advised in a work session Monday to seek requests for proposals from insurance companies nationwide, with changes in plan design to include multiple options.

The second cost-cutting proposal would allow Human Resources Director Rod Powell to design a long-term strategy to address the causes of and remedies to the skyrocketing premiums, possibly including targeting specific illnesses.

Getting employees into a diabetes treatment plan, for example, could cut their insurance costs in half, from $8,800 a year to $4,400, said Benalytics strategic adviser Corey Sherman.

Changing from HMOs to point of service coverage would cut overall costs because a POS has higher deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums for families and individuals, and higher co-pays for physician services.

Sherman also stressed the need for communication and education in the process.

"People are going to be upset, after five years of a stable health plan," he said.

Commissioner Don Grantham said employees should get ready to pay more for less coverage because the government is not Santa Claus.

"In order to carry the same insurance that we have right now today, it will be close to a $7 million increase," he said. "I can't see us asking our taxpayers and property owners to come in and pay these additional dollars to maintain the coverage we have right now."

The city now pays 77 percent of employee insurance costs.

The city is fully covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, which had to absorb $5 million in the cost of insuring city employees this year.

Powell said the city must redesign its plan by studying the coverage.

"We have to look at the cost," he said. "We have to look at the co-pays. When you walk in the doctor's office, it might be $25 or $30 overall deductibles. We have to look at all that stuff and come up with a formula that gets us within our budget. Yet still hopefully give employees good health care coverage.

"We're also going to try to come up with a situation where they have choices. So if you can afford sort of the stripped-down economy, you can pick that, or you can take the standard coverage, or you can buy up to the deluxe version."

The city must have a plan ready by January. Open enrollment will be in October and November.

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phantom
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phantom 07/27/10 - 10:18 am
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It never ceases to amaze me

It never ceases to amaze me to the extent that people treat city/county workers like property. Yes, those workers are paid by taxpayers, but THEY ARE TAXPAYERS THEMSELVES, THEY ARE PEOPLE! They are the ones that take care of YOU! Everyday items such as water, fire or protection, not to mention the other things such as licenses, tax issues, or any other area of convienent better life quality. It may be a job, but they provide these services to Augusta to help THEIR community, and they don't get any where near the pay as their private counterparts. And to counter that, Human Resources is always stating that they provide the best benefits package to the workers, so it's a trade off. We'll provide better benefits and pay you less. Now, the cost of these wonderful benefits is going up, but the pay won't, and the workers will still have to support their families, pay their taxes, and contribute to their community's economy. Mr. Grantham stated that the "employees should get ready to pay more for less coverage because the government is not Santa Claus." Really smart Don. This government has never been a Santa Claus to it's workers, because the workers contribute more to this community than the commissioners do. They're the ones that do the dirty work, the ones that get cussed out because of the stupid things the commissioners enact. They're the little guys that are on the front lines while the commissioners hide back in their little offices with voice mail boxes full so they don't have to hear all of the complaints!

And you wonder why the workers are so upset?! You have commissioners that don't want to prosecute employees that steal time, (that's been swept under the rug.), but they're very quick to hit the hard working individuals that keep this community going!!!!!

Getting less product for more money, it's okay; but providing less service for more money is an outrage. Having your elected bosses favor this, yeah it's about right for Augusta. Keep it up guys, Augusta has been the laughing stock for years, but maybe you can bring it to a new low which is clearly your goal.

reader54
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reader54 07/27/10 - 10:35 am
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Gee, sounds as though the

Gee, sounds as though the gov't. workers are charity volunteers. Everybody has been lauding the current health insurance system; as long as they have employer coverage that is an excellent value. Well, as we have all seen recently, the good ole days are over. Welcome to the New World reality.

myparrot
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myparrot 07/27/10 - 11:56 am
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“The City isn’t Santa Claus”,

“The City isn’t Santa Claus”, well they are to everyone else! The companies they get to do “STUDIES”, BUSINESS OWNER WHO SUE the city and Department heads they have to pay off to get rid of because they failed to check their past are all visited by SANTA! Employee’s COPAY for this HMO IS $35/50 FOR OFFICE VISITS, $300 FOR EMERGENCY ROOM and $150 every two weeks. They have a primary care that you have to get referred by to see another doctor. Employees have to use Georgia doctors or they pay full amount. The insurance is the worse I have ever had and all monies paid out are higher than any other employer. I bet Don Grantham doesn’t use the insurance RC workers have.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/27/10 - 12:04 pm
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It's employment at will. If

It's employment at will. If the city and county workers don't like it, they are free to find other jobs.

Welcome to reality.

We pay $50 for doctor's visits, $60 for specialists. And things like physical therapy is considered a "specialist" so that's $60, too.

Our costs go up every year and our copays go up every year. So phantom, quit whining, it's not any better in private employment, either.

PUPPYMOMMA
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PUPPYMOMMA 07/27/10 - 12:38 pm
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It's okay. I heard Obama has

It's okay. I heard Obama has a new healthplan coming that will cover everyone. Everyone can have coverage and be treated. There won't be any uninsured . .. what a wonderful thing!

Chillen
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Chillen 07/27/10 - 01:16 pm
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Obama's new healthcare plan

Obama's new healthcare plan is the very reason that healthcare rates are going up. The insurers know that hundreds of thousands of very sick people will soon be added to their roster of people to treat. They are collecting for it now.

Didn't Obama promise that taxes on those under $250,000 would not go up one single dime? He is the master of hidden taxes that the American sheeple are too stupid to figure out. They get what they deserve.

PUPPYMOMMA
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PUPPYMOMMA 07/27/10 - 02:37 pm
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I was being sarcastic. I

I was being sarcastic. I absolutely agree with you chillen.

Chillen
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Chillen 07/27/10 - 02:47 pm
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Oh, I know you were

Oh, I know you were puppymomma, ha-ha! I was just adding to the fuel to the fire.

montega12
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montega12 07/27/10 - 03:35 pm
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well so many of these people

well so many of these people wanted that brilliant new health plan good luck in the coming years having enough money to pay rent much less have food on the table IM GLAD YOU PEOPLE ARE GETTING JUST WHAT YOU ASKED FOR WITH OBAMACARE

Ayetidiosi
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Ayetidiosi 07/27/10 - 09:14 pm
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Corgi: Have you not spent

Corgi: Have you not spent many posts illuminating me on the trials and tribulations of the well qualified unemployed job seeker?

For you to post " It's employment at will. If the city and county workers don't like it, they are free to find other jobs. " is the very height of hypocrisy as you have criticised me for the exact same sentiments in the past.

Please, be consistent.
Doc

Ayetidiosi
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Ayetidiosi 07/27/10 - 09:15 pm
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Phantom's 10.18 post said all

Phantom's 10.18 post said all that matters. Thank you, Phantom.

phantom
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phantom 07/27/10 - 10:25 pm
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myparrot, when I spoke of

myparrot, when I spoke of Santa Claus, I meant not to the workers. Yes, to everyone else, especially studies and outside agencies that are supposed to tell the commissioners what to do, but they never listen. And I agree, the commissioners only use what benefits their interest. Personal agenda is the mainstay of Augusta's commissioners. Just like the Highland workers. Oh it's going to be investigated, yeah right. That will drag out, just like some of the commissioners want, and then when the Chronicle reports of how awful the amount spent on this issue, the commissioners will buckle and give in, wasting more money. But they can't pay their workers their worth or provide affordable benefits. it's like an old soap opera that never ends.

corgimom, yes it is employment at will, but the sad truth is that most of the city/county workers want to serve their community. Unfortunately, we have families to support and we are always looked upon as the bottom of the barrel, not just by commissioners but also the very public we serve. I can see a lot of workers leaving for the private sector, which will give our government a consistent turnover. that is a waste of money in its own right.

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