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Workers will now pay co-insurance and a deductible and under the renewed Cigna pact.

The city's costs for medical insurance are set to spike following an avalanche of major medical claims this year.

City commissioners Tuesday night voted to renew health insurance coverage with Cigna Healthcare at a cost of about $7.2 million.

City premiums will rise about 23 percent next year for annual coverage, which begins Jan. 1.

Next year's plan includes additional costs, such as deductibles and co-insurance for employees, which may put more financial stress on Largo workers, most of whom will likely see several unpaid days off next fiscal year.

"There may be a number of people that won't be able to afford insurance or won't make the choice to go to the doctor when they need to because they can't afford it," said Dawn Smolowitz, Largo's vice president of the Communication Workers of America, which represents about 375 of the city's workers.

Last month, Susan Sinz, the city's human resources director, told city commissioners that costs were climbing because Largo had a lot of "very sick employees and family members."

So far this year, the city had 20 catastrophic claims, or claims over $25,000. Those claims came to about $1.9 million of about $4.16 million in total claims, which were 120 percent higher than Largo's premiums.

"We have really been responsible and frugal with the management of the plan, but we obviously had a really bad year," Sinz said before Tuesday's meeting.

In July alone, the city had four catastrophic claims, including one for $600,000. If the city chose to keep the same coverage next year, Cigna quoted the city a 39 percent increase in premiums. And that was without taking into account the July claims.

The city's Benefits Committee, a group of employees that makes recommendations regarding insurance and other benefits, recommended negotiating with Cigna for various options that might alleviate costs for the city.

With input from the committee, the city staff pursued a plan that includes deductibles and co-insurance for Largo workers next year. Employees don't have to pay those this year.

The CWA requested that the city go out for a bid. But the city decided against it after a consultant said Largo would likely not get a better offer in light of its major claims. Sinz also said the city might risk its current offer if it did so.

In other action, commissioners voted to deny the annexation of two tracts of right of way along Roosevelt Boulevard, near 58th and 59th streets. Mayor Pat Gerard said she had received a number of complaints about the strains that annexations have had on the Police Department. She also said one of the annexations served no other purpose than to plant trees along the roadway. City commissioners made their decision after asking police Chief Lester Aradi for input.

"Roosevelt Road is going to add more accidents to our list of enforcement activity," Aradi said.

Fast facts

Insurance changes for Largo workers

Current core plan

Deductible: none

Co-insurance: none

Out of pocket maximums: $1,500 single coverage/$3,000 family coverage

New core plan

Deductible: $400 single coverage/$800 family coverage

Co-insurance: Workers pay 20 percent after deductible (excluding office visits, pharmacy)

Out of pocket maximums: $3,250 single/$6,500 family

City of Largo