Sebastian city employees to cover more health costs

SEBASTIAN – City employees in Sebastian can expect to pay more when they go to the doctor and have more taken from their paychecks to cover their dependents’ health care.

The Sebastian City Council approved its health care plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which is expected to save the city approximately $58,000 over last year. While the city’s health care coverage will continue to cover 100 percent for employees, the employees with dependents can expect to pay 50 percent of the coverage. Though there were several city employees in the audience during the council’s discussion, none spoke publicly on the proposed changes.

The health care plan also calls for a slight increase in some patient co-pays, though not all would be increased.

The hike to some co-pays did not sit well with Sebastian resident and businessman Damien Gilliams.

Gilliams questioned the city’s savings and increased fees to employees, noting that the employees already take a furlough day each month.

“It’s not the amount, Mr. Mayor,” Gilliams said when Mayor Richard Gillmor pointed out the employees would be paying an extra $5 per doctor’s visit. “It’s the principle.”

Gilliams also asked if the city could see more savings if it changed its health insurance consultant.

The Gehring Group, which represents the city in finding health insurance providers, receives 2 percent of the health care package as a commission. The new package equates to approximately $20,000 in fees to the Gehring Group.

“You don’t know until you try,” Gilliams said of the potential for savings with a new broker that won’t charge 2 percent.

Members of the Sebastian City Council supported the staff’s recommendation to move forward with the new health care package.

This coming fiscal year could be the last time city employees won’t have to contribute to their individual health care plan. City staff is considering a policy that would require employees to pay $25 each pay period into their plan.

That proposal is expected to be discussed with the city’s union groups during the next budget cycle.

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