City employees who shape up pay less

It’s now official.
City of Cairo employees covered by the city’s health insurance plan will have to make healthier lifestyle choices in 2015 or show they are taking steps to improve their health;  if not, they will see their annual deductible increase from $500 to $1,500 annually.
The city council voted 3-2 Monday night to implement the Wellness Medical Expense Reimbursement Plan as recommended by John Taylor of Taylor Benefit Resource of Thomasville, which manages the city’s self insurance plan.
City employees currently have a $500 per year deductible, but under the new plan that rate goes to $1,500 per year. Employees will be screened in four categories annually and if the employee meets the requirements set in the plan they will be eligible for a $250 credit per category on the annual deductible.
The wellness criteria included in the approved plan is: a blood glucose level of 70-140 mg/dL; blood pressure of 140/90; cholesterol of less than 130 mg/dL; and no use of smoked or nonsmoked tobacco/nicotine.
The city covers 100 percent of the cost of the employee’s health insurance and that is unchanged in the new plan.
Taylor appeared before the council last month to introduce the program.
At that meeting, Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas voiced concerns about the lack of accountability in the plan and he renewed those objections Monday night.
Douglas said that once an employee gets a prescription to relieve high blood pressure, for example, he/she will get the deductible credit but there is nothing in the plan to insure the employee actually takes the medicine.
After hearing Douglas’ concerns two weeks ago, Taylor amended the plan to include wording that stipulates the city has the right to randomly retest employees throughout the course of the year.
“The intent is not to be a policeman. We’re really trying to give an incentive to the employees to take care of themselves,” City Manager Chris Addleton said.
Taylor estimated the city could shave $35,000 to $40,000 off health care expenses, but he told the council last month the substantial savings would be from avoiding catastrophic claims in the future.
Taylor has already implemented similar plans in the cities of Moultrie and Vidalia, as well as Decatur County, Colquitt County and Thomas County.
“I think it’s a pretty good plan myself,” Mayor Pro Tem Lannis Thornton said prior to offering a motion to adopt the plan. Councilman Kermit Gilliard seconded Thornton’s motion and commented, “we can try it for a year and see how it works.”
Councilman Douglas and Councilman Ernest Cloud voted in opposition to the plan and Councilman Bobby Gwaltney voted with Thornton and Gilliard to adopt the plan for the 2015 calendar year.
According to city officials, all city employees were screened in June and those results, which are already available to city workers, will be used to determine if they are eligible for the deductible credits when the new plan year begins on Jan. 1.

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