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Village goes with United Health Care policy; Wittkop says HSA’s are a thing of the past

By LENNY C. LEPOLA News Assistant Managing Editor

December 25, 2013

HR Butler’s Chris Wittkop returned to Sunbury Village Council last Wednesday, and during this visit he had something to sell. The village’s current employee health insurance policy, underwritten by Medical Mutual, expires at the end of January. During visits to Council over the past several months Wittkop had said with the mass confusion over Obama-Care he couldn’t get rates from Medical Mutual or any other reliable provider.


Currently village employees have attractive $5,000 and $10,000 Health Savings Accounts. Attractive because if employees maintain personal wellness they can bank money that rolls over and is usable for health care costs during their retirement years.


Each year the village donates $1,500 to a single employee’s HSA and $3,000 into the HSA of an employee with a family. That money is theirs to keep. If they remain well and do not use those dollars, the dollars grow and are available during later years.


If an employee becomes ill or has other health care needs they spend those HSA dollars first, then the single employee is responsible for the next $1,000 in health care costs, an employee on a family plan could get hit for $2,000. Single employees are then reimbursed for the next $2,500 in health care costs before a traditional insurance plan kicks in; employees on a family plan are reimbursed for the next $5,000.


The high deductible lowers village employee health insurance plan costs; the opportunity to save health care dollars for later years encourages employee wellness and discourages frivolous use of a health insurance plan.


HSA’s were a win-win, the new kid on the block, the blossoming future of employee health care plans – until Obama-Care came down the proverbial pike.


“All of these plans from the past won’t exist in the future,” Wittkop said. “Medical Mutual now has a $2,000/$4,000 traditional plan, an old-school 80/20 plan with $3,500/$7,000 total out-of-pocket for $371,000. There’s a 12 percent reduction in the premium but it’s an age-based policy. Some employees will pay less; some will pay more and be hurt. That’s the new world we live in – it’s going to affect some positively and others negatively.”


Wittkop did say the good news is that Medical Mutual came back with rates in time to offer the Village an option before the current HSA plan expires.


“We can at least offer your folks something,” he said. “And we will also be able to save money for the Village.”


Wittkop also had two options from United Health Care. Council members appeared to prefer a UHC $1,000/$2,000 deductible with $4,000 out of pocket maximum for a single employee, $8,000 max for an employee on a family plan. Rates would be based on age and zip code; the only wellness credit is for non-smoking.


Wittkop said the United Health Care policy would begin January 1, and overlap with the existing Medical Mutual HSA for 30 days. The downside, he said, is because the Village would be applying for the policy at such a late date a policy number would not be available until mid-January.


Wittkop said staying with Medical Mutual would provide a more seamless transition into the still relatively unknown landscape of Obama-Care. There would be a familiar diabetic management program, employee peace of mind, low out-of-pocket expenses and a cost savings to the Village.


“If you go the Medical Mutual route it’s a seamless transition, but the cons are in some cases employee premiums will go up,” Wittkop said. “If you go with United Health care in January you could have two programs. Keep the HSA through January, and start United Health Care January 1.”


Council member Scott Weatherby said he preferred to go with UHC, and cut Medical Mutual loose on January 1. He called it a ripcord approach.


“Have employees use a letter with providers stating that they would not have a UHC policy number until mid-January,” Weatherby said. “Use the letter and when the bill comes file to be reimbursed.”


Council member Joe Gochenour recommended that employees using maintenance drugs get any January refills before January 1 because of the lack of a policy number until mid-month.


“The biggest key will be education,” Gochenour said. “We want to start that as soon as possible.”


Council members subsequently approved a motion to go with the UHC $1,000/$2,000 deductible with $4,000 out of pocket maximum for a single employee, $8,000 max for employees on a family plan. The plan has a $25 co-pay, $75 co-pay and $250 co-pay; and $10/$35/$60 meds.


Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield noted that moving to United Health Care, even with no employee up-front premium, would create a lot of change – both for the Village Administration and for employees.


“Either way we must tell our employees to keep their eyes open,” Hatfield said. “There will be no premiums this year, but we can’t guarantee the same thing next year.”


In other business, Village Administrator Dave Martin reported that Community Development Block Grant dollars might be used for the Village’s new storm siren; and Martin is working with Delaware County EMS to see if the siren could be located on the Granville Street Medic 2 property.


The Rainbow Street property recently purchased by the village, the Martindale property on Columbus Street, and the old village water treatment plant are all scheduled for demolition in early 2014.


The next Sunbury Village Council meeting, Council’s annual reorganization session will begin at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, January 8, in third floor Council Chambers, Sunbury Town Hall.


There will be no committee meetings on January 8. The session will begin with the swearing in of Tom Zalewski, Scott Weatherby and David Miller. Council members will then select a candidate to fill the remaining empty seat at the dais (resumes accepted at the village administration office until 12 noon, Tuesday, December 31).


Sunbury’s website is located at sunburyvillage.com.


Sunbury Village Council meets the first and third Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m., third floor council chambers, Sunbury Town Hall. Council committees meet one hour before regularly scheduled council sessions. All village council and council committee meetings are open to the public.