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Oldsmar officials can buy into city's insurance plan

Several weeks after discussing whether the city should buy health insurance for its elected leaders, City Council members have decided instead on another option.

The council unanimously voted Tuesday night to allow its members to buy health insurance through the city. Mayor Jerry Beverland, who suggested the latest proposal, made clear the distinction.

"If a council member wants to buy into the city's insurance program, they can," Beverland said. "When I say buy in, I mean they . . . pay for the service."

The issue sparked heated debate about two weeks ago when council member Marcelo Caruso suggested that the city buy health insurance for its elected officials as well as for full-time employees. Under the city's health insurance program, it costs about $200 a month for an HMO plan and about $260 a month for an alternative plan.

Council members David Tilki and Brian Michaels opposed Caruso's idea. Michaels said at that meeting that the proposal was "self-serving" and "I think it's wrong for us to have the citizens of Oldsmar pay for our health care."

Council members postponed a decision after questions arose on whether council members who opted out of the city's health insurance plan could instead receive in cash what would have been spent buying their coverage. That would have meant some council members would have received about $200 a month if they decided not to use the benefit.

The council's decision Tuesday avoided those questions, and there was little discussion on Beverland's compromise.

The decision means council members can purchase health insurance for themselves and their dependents through the city's insurance program.

"All the city is going to do is make it available for any council member at any time," Beverland said. "If they want to buy it from the city, they can. I don't see a thing wrong with that."

_ Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or at