City employees will get an upgrade in health insurance plans for 2021.

City commissioners approved a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas plan for workers on Monday evening with an increased cost of about $37,000 over the current plan.

The new plan offers an 80/20 split, meaning BCBS will pay for 80% of costs. The current plan provides a 60/40 split.

“It’s difficult for a young family to come up with that 40%, so I’m all for the 80/20,” Mayor Jeff Perez said.

The commissioners budgeted for a 10% to 12% increase in health insurance premiums for next year, but BCBS instead offered the current plan with only a $2,932.80 increase to the city for 2021. That amounts to less than 1%.

The city pays for all of the premium for employee-only health insurance coverage and a portion of employee/child, employee/spouse and employee/family.

Total cost to the city for this year on the current plan is $794,573.88. BCBS would charge $797,506.58 for the same plan next year. Instead, the commission followed the recommendation of a committee of employees in selecting a plan that will cost $834,823.08. That is $40,249.20 more than this year’s health insurance cost, amounting to a 5.07% increase.

City Manager Debbie Lamb said on Monday the new plan still won’t cost as much as the city had budgeted and will be better for the workers. The current plan limits office visits to five per year. Some employees didn’t know until they exceeded the limit that physical therapy counted as office visits. Others, she said, may have avoided going to the doctor because of the limit. The new plan has no office visit limit.

The new plan also will keep the deductible at $1,500. Co-insurance will increase to $2,500, but the maximum out-of-pocket expense will drop from $6,350 to $5,000. Under the current plan, employees are charged a $30 co-pay for office visits and $60 for specialty visits. The new plan will charge $35 for all visits.

Lamb said other health insurance companies contacted the city but never submitted proposals. BCBS offered other plans, but the health committee didn’t like the prescription drug coverage.

Commissioner Leland Crooks said the additional money spent on health insurance per employee — $327 — isn’t much.

“If we were to give them that in extra money, that’s a drop in the bucket whereas this could be huge,” Crooks said.

Commissioner Verlyn Bolinger said he liked the 80/20 plan because the maximum amount spent out of pocket is $1,350 less than in the current plan.

“That’s huge,” he said.

Lamb said the city was fortunate this year because some cities did see the increase of 10% to 12% that Parsons had anticipated.

 

United Way

In another matter Monday, Fire Chief Kenny Ward told commissioners that 65 city employees pledged to give $6,902 in a United Way fund drive.

Ward said it had been a few years since the city had a United Way drive, so he would have been ecstatic if the drive resulted in $3,000 to $4,000 in donations.

Ward said he has been involved in United Way in all of the cities where he has worked. He was impressed by the generosity of the city of Parsons workers, especially during a pandemic when people are worried about finances.

“This by far was the most generous that any city that I worked for was,” Ward said. “They just truly opened up their hearts, and I do appreciate it very much.”

Ward also said the firefighters overwhelmingly won a challenge between the fire department and the police department. The police department now owes the fire department pizza, and Ward said the fire department will gladly accept a challenge again in 2021.

 

In other business, the commissioners heard that:

— The city’s final assessed valuation is $55,460,016. That is $4,818 less than the estimated valuation used in preparing the 2021 budget. The budget estimated that a property tax levy of 54.604 mills would be needed to raise the set amount of revenue. With the slight decrease in expected valuation, the actual levy will be 54.611 mills.

— Repair of the city’s fuel system is scheduled for next week. City workers have had to refuel vehicles at gas stations while the system has been down.

— New traffic signals at the 16th and Main intersection should be installed the first of next week. 

— Four pastors have signed up to lead prayers at the beginning of commission meetings. Prayers will resume in January. The commission had a rotation of pastors offering prayers but then discontinued it after some pastors were no longer able to participate. For the last few years, the commissioners instead have had a moment of silence.

— The Parsons Chamber of Commerce has discussed a few ideas about this year’s Christmas parade, but nothing has been decided yet. The commissioners had asked about the status of the parade during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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