Rising medical insurance rates concern council
by Dolores Hamilton
News that rates for group medical insurance are again increasing an average of 20 percent for city employees was discussed at length by the Iowa Park City Council Monday night.
The city has group medical insurance with Texas Municipal League (TML) MultiState - Intergovernmental Employee Benefits Pool, and the present rates will expire on June 30. This is the third consecutive year that rates have increased by 20 percent or more.
“This is not a local issue, not a TML issue, this is a nationwide issue and insurance rates are out of control,” said City Manager Jerry Flemming. “The really bad news, that is hard to swallow, is that rates are going up an average of 20 percent.” He said he had shopped around but can’t get a better plan at a better price.
The rates are dependent upon all employees being insured except those covered under a spouse’s plan or a federal government plan.
Monthly premiums for employees will range from $785 to $1,188.14, and the family plan will range from $2,020.66 to $3,055.96. Currently the city’s contribution for employees hired since 2014 is $650, and $1,170 for employees hired prior to 2014, and $1,430 for the family plan. Flemming said he didn’t see how the city could afford to spend more to help cover the cost of the latest increase.
“Did we ever think we’d live to see the day where medical insurance cost more than our housing?” Flemming asked the council. “We’re there! We have employees that are paying more for medical care than housing.”
Deborah Dyer asked, “Is it time to not put more (money) into a CD and put that towards this (helping with the rate increase) as a band-aid until mandates are over?”
“That’s what I was thinking,” said Lori Shierry. “I think we’re stuck with these numbers for this year.”
The council voted to accept plans presented by TMLMultiState, and the council will continue to look for ways for the city to cover a portion of the increase.
Public hearings were held to determine if structure on three separate properties should be declared “substandard structures” and be abated.
The owner of a mobile home-type structure and utility building at 607 S. Park told the council he has already started tearing them down, and the council gave him 45 days to finish.
Owner of the mobile home-type structure at 805 E. Ruby was given 45 days to secure the building.
Owner of the single family residential structure at 609 N. Texowa said he has been taking the siding off, and was scheduled for knee surgery. He was given 60 days to finish the work.
In other business the City Manager was authorized to sign a contract with Wichita County for joint election services.
The Iowa Park Volunteer Fire Department was given permission to conduct a controlled burn at Lake Iowa Park (middle lake) to help prevent wildfires and for training purposes.
A workshop to discuss economic development and annexation was set to be held at 6 p.m. on April 30.
The purchase of two additional $75,000 certificates of deposit for the General Fund Reserve, and two additional $50,000 certificates of deposit for the Utility Fund Reserve was approved.
After meeting in executive session to seek legal advice from the City Attorney on potential civil action in regards to real property, the council approved a motion to move forward on the civil matter issue.