PORT RICHEY — Facing steep rate hikes for employee health insurance, City Council members decided to switch health insurance providers.
The council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to move to United Healthcare when the city's contract with Aetna expires March 1. But even that change will mean a 21 percent jump of $33,933 in the city's annual insurance bill.
During the bidding process, Aetna proposed a 59 percent increase of $92,340 in the city's annual premiums, from $157,140 this year to $249,480 next year. The increase came in part because city employees' claims over the past year far outweighed the premiums that were paid, according to the city's insurance broker, Gehring Group.
Aetna collected an average $4,700 in premiums per person but paid out an average $8,500 in claims.
"Actually that is extremely high," said Gehring's Anna Maria Studley, who made a presentation prior to the vote.
Employees will see a rate increase in their new plans under United Healthcare, though the city will still offer a no-cost base plan to single employees. But the base plan at single and family rates has a $10,000 deductible, which incensed council member Terry Rowe.
"When I saw a $10,000 deductible I was aghast. I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it," Rowe said.
Council member Nancy Britton, who along with Rowe voted against the switch, said the $771-a-month family rate United offers for its base health insurance is too high.
"I wouldn't choose this for myself," Britton said.
Vice Mayor Bill Colombo said nothing will change in terms of the $10,000 base plan deductible, which is the rate in the current Aetna plan, and pointed to buy-up plans employees can choose to reduce their deductible.
Several employees also decried the increases, saying their paychecks will be cut too deep. Police department employee Kristina Coolidge said covering herself, her husband and her daughter, as well as paying $200 a month for child care, would take a big chunk of her pay.
"So that leaves me with a take home pay of about $300 per month to be employed here," she said.
Rowe proposed postponing the decision to look for a better deal, while former council member Phyllis Grae accused the board of waiting to the last minute to make a decision.
"I really and truly don't think you did your homework," she said.
Mayor Richard Rober defended the effort: "Just because you don't like the result of what was researched and presented doesn't mean someone didn't go through a lot of trouble on it," he said.
The city's loss ratio is so poor some insurance providers wouldn't even offer a bid, Rober said. "That says everything, that says it all," he said.