Letter to the Editor: City’s proposed insurance plan has some flaws

I would like to address one of the suggestions for change in the city employee insurance plan presented in the newspaper from my perspective as an employee of the city.
Apr 23, 2014

To the Editor:

I would like to address one of the suggestions for change in the city employee insurance plan presented in the newspaper from my perspective as an employee of the city.  

Spousal exclusion is not a mainstream practice but a somewhat radical and controversial way to reduce benefits. Fewer than 19 percent of employers have enacted such a policy. The reason most of us carry our spouses on city insurance when they have insurance available through their employer is cost. 

In my own case it will cost about one third of my take-home pay to insure my wife on her employer’s plan, which also has much higher out-of-pocket expenses and co-pays. 

The timing will also cause us to pay hundreds of dollars in additional deductibles this year and cost us thousands of dollars per year in premiums from here forward. 

While spousal exclusion is currently legal under ERISA and has recently been interpreted to be allowable under the Affordable Care Act despite attempts to ban it, the ethical and moral question still needs to be considered. Is it fair to offer better benefits to some employees than others? Is it right to retract a benefit promised upon employment many years later? Does Lebanon really want to be one of the first local governments to take such a step? 

I know better than most the financial difficulties of the city of Lebanon but this seems a drastic step for the amount of money saved versus the negative effect on possibly one third of the work force. There will also be an ongoing need to constantly monitor employee spouses to make sure of their employer insurance status.

It has been said we are subsidizing the other employer by accepting spouses with coverage available through their employer. If a spouse’s employer offers no insurance, then are we not subsidizing 100 percent of the insurance coverage for that employer? The employer with the expensive coverage at least offers something. 

Another factor is a number of employees will be forced to keep their children on their family plan while their spouse has to get other coverage, which means more deductibles and confusion for the family. 

I would urge the council and mayor to also consider more mainstream alternatives other employers have used, such as surcharges or increased premiums for spouses with coverage available which can be phased in gradually instead of being hit with such a sudden, drastic increase. Or consider making it a new hire policy as was done last year with retirement benefits. 

I am grateful to the citizens of Lebanon for providing me with a good job and benefits and I hope you will consider both sides.  

Ricky Metcalf

Lebanon

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