COBRA costs going up for ex-city workers

Published 8:36 pm Thursday, October 11, 2018

Former city employees presently on the city of Vicksburg’s health and dental insurance program through COBRA will find themselves paying more for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Wednesday approved a revised plan that will more than double the present COBRA premiums under the city’s self-insured insurance program. The city has 12 people on COBRA.

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COBRA is short for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a federal law that gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits under certain circumstances the right to choose to continue those benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time.

People who qualify may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.

Under the new plan, premiums for employee-only medical coverage will go from $248.56 per month to $533 per month, with employee and family coverage going from $671.44 per month to $1,334 per month. Dental coverage for the employee only goes from $12.76 to $27.67 per month, with employee and family dental coverage going from $46.72 per month to $91.31 per month.

“This is absolutely necessary to sustain the health insurance and benefits going forward,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “It (the premiums) haven’t been changed in 10 years. We’re the lowest, probably, in the country even as we have to do this.

“Of the 442 full-time employees, 84 in the next five years will eligible for retirement based on years of service, and 29 will eligible retirement based on age. That’s 113 employees in the next five years that are going to be eligible for retirement, and we have to make this adjustment going forward, and what we’re trying to do is create a sustainable health care program for the city in the next five years.”

Because the city is self-insured, “Every claim is paid.”

He said the city’s health care budget has gone down, citing the in-house clinic for employees and their families, which he said has reduced the number of emergency room visits by employees and reduced some of the chronic illness claims.

One of the benefits of reducing the health care costs, Flaggs said, “We can look at awarding you (employees) pay raises. Part of calculating pay raises is what we pay in health care.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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