Wednesday, January 16, 2013

0 Fostoria Review Times

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Staff Writer

Mayor Eric Keckler announced during Monday's finance committee meeting the city saved more than $400,000 by switching its health plan.

Prior to switching providers, Keckler said he was notified by Paramount the city health plan premium would increase by 22 percent, or roughly $227,000, upon the 2013 renewal.

Auditor Steve Garner typically budgets for 9-10 percent rate increases, Keckler said.

"It was shocking," described Safety Service Director Allyson Murray.

A resurrected insurance committee -- formed in September and comprised of city union representatives, the late councilman Jerry Nelson and Murray -- ultimately examined five insurance plan proposals.

The committee agreed to submitting to a medical health questionnaire, which immediately lowered the health plan rate by $134,000.

City employees were required to fill out the survey, the answers of which were not read by city personnel.

"It's a tool they use to gather all the information so they can put our group in one big package and shop our insurance around," Keckler.

The program was offered online by Form Fire, a company that aims to digitize the process of small-group health insurance quoting, according to its website.

Murray said the surveys took up to an hour to complete and computers were provided for those who did not have Internet access.

"They were all very enthusiastic about helping us to find a way to reduce costs," she said.

Corporate One Benefits also set up a kiosk at the Municipal Building to assist employees with the questionnaire process, which was completed in two weeks in October.

The information was then provided to insurance carriers to seek quotes for a new plan.

The city ultimately selected an Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, which saved about $200,000 off the 2012 plan price of about $1 million. The health plan covers 84 employees.

The plan also includes prescription drug coverage, which had not been provided in the past. Keckler said prescription drug costs were previously paid for directly out of the general fund.

"This really protects us from a lot of problems from an expensive medication that somebody would take," he said.

Keckler thanked the union representatives for cooperating with the survey and not objecting to switching insurance providers.

"None of their contracts are open right now, so they were under no obligation to agree to this," Keckler said.

As an added perk, the new plan has a wider network of doctors and hospitals, Murray said.

Keckler said he hopes to put money saved by the new insurance plan into a contingency fund.

"My hope is by the end of this year, we can put some money in the contingency fund for next year," he said.

In other business, Garner said his office is still working on closing the books for 2012. State auditors have begun conducting the city's annual audit, he added.

Fostoria Police Capt. Patrick Brooks reported the department was interested in participating in a continuing education program offered by Owens Community College. Through the program, the department could earn up to 208 hours of training for $300 per year.

"It would be a very cost-effective way to obtain advanced training for our officers," he said.

Brooks also said the Fostoria Eagles made a $2,500 donation to the department to be used toward the purchase of Tasers.

The new equipment would eliminate the need for officers to physically engage with subjects who resist arrest, he said.

"With the spat of bad luck we've had as far as officer duty-related injuries in the last six months, if we are able to deploy Tasers out in the field, this will help officers not have to engage in physical fights," Brooks said.

Fostoria Police Department has never owned Tasers, according to Brooks.


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