City employees might bear more insurance costs

HARLINGEN — The city’s employees might be paying more for their health insurance.

Last night, city commissioners approved a $6.5 million contract with Blue-Cross Blue-Shield, up from $6.2 million this year.

But officials are still trying to determine the costs the city and its 700 employees will share.

“I’d like to look at it a little harder,” Commissioner Richard Uribe said in the meeting. “The last thing I want to do is take insurance from employees.”

This year, the city is paying $5.1 million while employees pay $1.2 million.

Commissioner Tudor Uhlhorn said employees are sharing more costs as insurance coverage continues to increase.

“This isn’t just us. It’s universal,” Uhlhorn said. “The shift is toward employees.”

Commissioners selected the plan rather then renew the city’s current plan, which would come with an 18.8 percent increase.

“Nineteen percent is a huge increase,” City Manager Dan Serna said.

Scott Gibbs, the city’s insurance consultant, reviewed proposals from United Healthcare and the Texas Municipal League before recommending Blue Cross-Blue Shield.

“It’s a challenge right now,” Gibbs said. “We talked with all the carriers. Unfortunately, those were the quotes we got this year.”

Gibbs said large claims pushed up costs.

“This is always a difficult issue for us,” Mayor Chris Boswell said. “We want to do the best we can for employees.”

As part of the new policy, employees can select one of three plans.

The plans feature individual deductibles similar to the city’s current policy, ranging from $750 to $2,000.

Meanwhile, family deductibles remained in the range of $1,500 to $4,000.

While the new plan features co-pays as low as $15, this year’s plan priced co-pays at $25.

This year, the city returned to Blue Cross-Blue Shield after four years.

The city contracted with Valley Baptist Health Plans, which changed its name to Allegian in 2014, for health insurance from 2012 to 2015.