City approves $6.5 million health care insurance; Contract comes with $217,000 increase


HARLINGEN — Health insurance costs are going up again at City Hall.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved a $6.5 million employee health insurance contract that came with a $217,000 increase over the current $6.29 million policy.

During a Wednesday meeting, consultant Scott Gibbs’ PowerPoint presentation showed Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, which increased its premium by 4.4 percent, had reduced the premium’s initially-proposed renewal increase of 8.9 percent.

“I think this is a great renewal,” Mayor Chris Boswell said. “The last four years have been good in terms of minimizing increases in a volatile environment.”

Despite the 4.4 percent increase, the contract offers the city a lower health insurance premium compared to those of many cities, City Manager Dan Serna said.

“We are below what’s trending for cities at 4.4 percent,” Serna said.

Cumulatively, the city’s health care costs have increased by 9.2 percent during the last four years, Gibbs’ presentation showed.

From Oct. 1 to April 30, the Blue Cross Blue Shield paid $2.9 million in employee claims, while the premium paid $3.6 million worth of health care costs.

Since October 2016, the premium has paid an annual average of $6.2 million worth of health care costs.

“Most of the employees are happy with Blue Cross Blue Shield,” Gibbs told commissioners. “We are not recommending any plan changes.”

The policy will cover about 700 employees working from City Hall and WaterWorks to Valley International Airport and the Harlingen Public Housing Authority.

Under the new contract, employee costs will slightly increase.

For coverage under the new policy’s three plans, individual employees will pay from $367 to $441 a year, while family coverage will range from $1,278 to $1,534 for family coverage.

The three plans offer individual deductibles ranging from $750 to $1,500 and family deductibles from $1,500 to $4,000.

While co-pays for office visits will charge about $25, prescription drug co-pays will start at $15 for generic drugs and $40 for brand-name drugs.

In 2016, the city returned to Blue Cross-Blue Shield after four years.

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