Lenoir City debating employee insurance switch

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald
Health insurance providers for Lenoir City employees are up in the air.

With the city's current insurance provider originally quoting a 34 percent increase for the 2013-14 plan, council discussed options Monday to keep health insurance costs down, including negotiating between Cigna and a cheaper alternative, Blue Cross Blue Shield. Cigna has since come down on its initial offer, but council agreed to continue negotiating with Cigna and choose the provider with the smallest expenditure increase.

Council discussed other options to keep costs down, including possibly cutting the city's health reimbursement account utilization or deductible penetration from 100 to 50 percent.

Chris Wampler, of the city's purchasing committee, told council that although the 2013-14 overall plan deductible will double, employees' deductible will remain the same. The city will be responsible for the second half of the additional deductible, meaning for the city itself 100 percent of the city's allocation or responsibility could amount to over $116,000 for 84 employees and 274 dependents. Wampler argued 100 percent utilization "will not happen."

Wampler said last year the city was responsible for over $41,000 of claims, meaning only 37.5 percent of city employees or members reached their deductible.

"The deductible penetration we feel like could be funded at 50 percent," he said. "That's higher than it was last year, but when you fund it at 50 percent you know that you are being very conservative. When you fund it at 50 percent or $58,125 instead of a 34 percent increase ... the increase gets dropped down to 4.7 percent. So, you can see where the savings are."

"What we're doing is we're rolling the dice a little bit on our claims experience. We're going to fund it very conservatively and then hope for the best as far as that goes on the back end (city) side," Wampler said.

Wampler said there would be a "few tweaks" if the city chooses to go with Blue Cross, such as a $5 increase in brand-name prescription drug copays.

Since Cigna has since come down on its initial offer council agreed to choose the insurance provider that does not exceed a 4.7 percent increase.

In other business, Council:

● Recognized first graders in Angie Selvidge's class at Highland Park Elementary. The students recently finished a project, geared to build paragraph writing and technology skills, titled "Our Community." Students researched, took photographs, wrote the script and narrated a video about their community of Lenoir City. With their project, the class won six iPads from Tennessee Tech University.

● Approved the first reading of the planning commission's recommendation regarding an ordinance that would temporarily suspend Lenoir City Zoning Ordinance applications regarding signs, billboards and other advertising structures that go against current city regulations.

"For clarification purposes, this is a moratorium on variance requests. This does not hinder any applicant coming forward for sign regulations as our regulations currently read," Leslie Johnson, city code enforcement officer, said. Johnson said the city does not have standards in place for those wanting variances on sign regulations.

"What happens is it becomes very time consuming on my part as well as the board of zoning appeals to hear these requests, to start comparing apples to oranges," Johnson said, adding the moratorium would give the board time to establish "better guidelines."

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held at council's Dec. 10 meeting.

● Approved the first reading of the planning commission's recommendation regarding an ordinance to rezone certain properties along Martel Road from R-1 single family residential district to C-3 highway commercial district. Johnson said letters have been sent to all properties and surrounding properties affected by this potential rezoning.

A public hearing will be held in January.

● Approved the 2012-13 Loudon County Career and Higher Education Center budget, which is projected at $155,000.

● Adopted the resolution authorizing the submission of an Economic Development Administration grant to relocate a water main from the Norfolk Southern Railroad site in Lenoir City to C Street.