Sunbury Village Council unanimously voted at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 18, to switch health-care providers from Medical Mutual to UnitedHealthcare Services Inc., saving the village more than $100,000.
Council made the switch in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act and reduce costs for the village and its employees, officials said.
Councilman Len Weatherby said it was not an easy decision but council members had few options.
"As far as the benefits to the new employees with the new Affordable Care Act, we don't have a lot of choice as to what we can offer them," Weatherby said, "so what we wanted to do was get the best policy to ease into the new era for our employees. With that much cost savings to the taxpayers, I think we had to go to the different plan."
Sunbury has 27 full-time and seven part-time employees. Of those, 21 take advantage of the village's health insurance.
The village was paying $421,940 for total plan costs with its Medical Mutual plan. It will pay $302,779 under the new plan, saving $119,161, a 28 percent decrease from the current plan.
Sunbury village employees' new policy will begin Jan. 1 with UnitedHealthcare. However, the policy with Medical Mutual does not end until Feb. 1. The overlap in policy coverage could cause some issues, such as claims that must be refiled, longer wait times for reimbursement or a change in pharmaceutical costs, officials said.
"The difference is with Medical Mutual, pharmaceuticals was part of their deductible last year and it was a fixed part of their co-pay," Mayor Tommy Hatfield said. "This year, there's a set structure. It doesn't retire the deductible.
"That change is going to be confusing, but we're going to work the remaining days of this year (to prepare pharmacies)," Hatfield added.
Though the new plan will be in effect Jan. 1, the current insurance coverage will be canceled as soon as the village receives the policy number from UnitedHealthcare, insurance broker Chris Wittkop said.
Wittkop, who has been a consultant for the village, warned that the process is slow and the village can work only as quickly as insurance companies. It is unknown how soon the village will receive the new insurance policy number.
Hatfield said the transition in the next month or two from the old policy to the new policy will be the most difficult part of the switch. Hatfield said council is working to get the deductible and premium lined up on the calendar, but delays occur when the insurance company is slow to provide rates.
Council also hopes to spend the $119,160 savings on employees' premiums. Currently, employees pay 10 percent in premium costs. Council hopes that, at least for 2014, the village can pick up that cost, Hatfield said.
Legally, employees will have to pay some sort of premium under the Affordable Care Act. Council is aiming for employees to pay the absolute minimum of $1.
Council will vote on the employees' premium cost at its Jan. 8 meeting.
Some council members said they were worried about what will happen in 2014 and what changes Congress will make to the law.
Councilman Dave Miller said the uncertainty is his biggest concern.
"I think everybody is just digging in the dark a bit with insurance and Obamacare and how the Affordable Care Act will affect all of us," Miller said. "It's going to cost all of us a little bit more money. How much, I don't know yet."
In the meantime, council advised employees to be patient and work with the village in the transition, as well as learn about the new plan.
"I think employees get really good health care, the village saves a lot of money and, in this particular case, it is working out well for us," Hatfield said. "The proof is in the pudding, so we'll see as we move forward."
Sunbury Village Council will meet again at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at Town Hall, 9 E. Granville St.