City of Buckhannon looks at insurance changes

BUCKHANNON — The City of Buckhannon is exploring a move to a semi self-insured insurance plan as well as requiring new hires to pay into coverage for their spouse and children to save money.

A special meeting is planned for Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m. in council chambers for council to consider the move.

During Tuesday’s city council meeting – held two days earlier due to the West Virginia Strawberry Festival Junior Royalty Parade on the normal meeting date – Mayor David McCauley said, “We are in this repetitive, cyclical, endless situation where over the last seven or eight years our insurance premiums have gone from about a half a million dollars a year to $1.18 million past year. And, it just continues to go up. It’s a good day at city hall when we get a call that our insurance is only going up 9 or 10 percent a year.”

McCauley said the city could not continue to sustain that model.

“As an organization, we have to do our very best and exercise our best responsibilities… and try to do the right thing by our employees without giving it all away,” he said.

McCauley said the insurance committee has heard from a couple providers already and will meet with a third early next week.

He proposed the special meeting for next Thursday for council to consider options.

“We think that there is opportunity to save some money, not just relative to incurring more on this next year’s premium but to actually reduce our insurance premium costs,” the mayor said.

Councilman Robbie Skinner added that it would be, “without watering down coverage that we are providing to our current employees.

But McCauley said there had been had discussion that as of Jan. 1, 2020 new hires would be required to participate in the payment of spousal and family insurance.

Another idea that is not new to the industry is to require employees to identify if their spouses have health insurance through their own employment that they are required to have their insurance through that other provider.

“Too often we end up in situations where we have spouses who join the family plan and they already have health insurance through their own employer,” he said.

Current employees would be grandfathered into their current plans but the move would save thousands.

Skinner said the city would double its insurance premium again in seven years if it continues down the same road.

“We absolutely have a fiduciary responsibility to provide the absolute best coverage to our employees,” he said. “We value our employees but we also have a responsibility to the tax payers of this community. We must do the best we can to save the taxpayers money and I believe we are doing that with this exercise. I’m happy we are having this conversation.

“I want the employees to know that we are in no way, shape or form looking to reduce the coverages they have now,” he said.