Unions examine health care options for 2013

Leaders of the unions representing employees of the Times Union met with the company Friday to get a look at health-care options for next year.

The company’s consultants, Rowlands & Barranca, said Blue Shield had first come to the table with a 24 percent increase in costs next year. The brokers and Blue Shield negotiated and brought that increase down to 12.7 percent.

One way that was done to eliminate a small vision benefit the company said only one Guild member used because it was available at a limited number of places. Under the Guild contract, the company provides its own reimbursements for contact lenses and eyeglasses that would be unchanged.

The parties are looking at three different options.

Right now, Guild-covered employees pay 23 percent of health care costs, less than some of the other unions’ members. When the company imposed conditions in 2009, that was the top percentage imposed and it cannot be increased further without agreement.

For members, that cost is now $37.76 a week. To keep the current Blue Sheild plan minus the vision benefit, that cost would rise to $51.71 next year, up $13.94. Under that scenario, the deductible would remain $750.

The second, and least appealing option, was to raise the employee deductible  from $750 to $1,000. That plan would still require employees to pay 10 percent of their medical costs once they acquire $2,000 in medical bills for an individual plan or $4,000 for a family plan. It would still have a cap on employee’s liability once they hit that 90/10 split of $2,000 for an individual plan and $4,000 for a family.

Under that option, the weekly contribution would be $50.45, up $12.69. While that increase is smaller, for most members the higher deductible would make this a more expensive option.

The final option presented also included raising the deductible from $750 to $1,000. Under that choice, however, people’s liabilities would drop to $1,500 for an individual plan and $3,000 for a family plan. The maximum liability under that 90/10 split would similarly drop to $1,500 and $3,000 rather than the current $2,000 and $4,000.

If we go with that option, the weekly contribution would rise to $51.22, up $13.46.

The question the unions need to decide is which option the majority of members would prefer. The Guild thinks there are arguments to be made for the first option — keeping the deductible at $750 — and for the third option, raising the deductible to $1,000 but lowering the total liability.

The company is crunching some numbers for the unions on how many people ended up paying the maximum last year.

The Guild’s Executive Board plans to meet at 12:30 p.m. Monday in the cafeteria to discuss how to proceed. Before any decision is made, we will call a membership meeting so you can talk to us directly.



  • Ken Crowe

    Looking at the premium increase in the first scenario, the premium rises 36.9 percent, but the insurance increase is 12.7 percent. Would you please explain how the costs rise by the lower percentage and we’ll be paying an increase that’s 3 times larger.

    Also, in the past as I recall, the company provided charts showing the changes in the premiums for the various unions, Guild and exempt. Posting that would help. Is this still a composite rate for the Guild?

    Any changes in the dental insurance?

    It still costs more, which is hard for us to bear after more than five years without a raise. It amounts to another reduction in pay.

    Tim O’Brien replies: Ken, we were given this information at a 2 p.m. Friday meeting, met for an hour but managed to get a bulletin posted shortly afterward.

    We will as always provide copies of the charts we were given, as well as more details, next week. This was our first look at the options, and I shared what the company presented as quickly as possible. I expect the board will schedule a membership meeting once we can talk Monday. More details and copies of the documents will be made available before the meeting for members to review.

  • Ken Crowe


    We can all appreciate getting the information on a Friday afternoon. A 12.7 percent overall increase versus a 36.9 percent premium increase begs the question that there’s either a mistake in the calculations or there is some substantial cost change that was not presented. It’s a big difference between $4.80 per week versus $13.79 per week. Other members have mentioned the difference to me in our brief chats. I look forward to the executive board getting to the bottom of this.

    Also, as previously asked, any changes to the dental insurance?

    Ken: It is the weekend, and I am crunching numbers on this as well as dealing with family matters and a dying cat. We will have a detailed bulletin on Monday. We have not agreed to the numbers. They are much too high. There is no proposed change to the dental plan. We will address the other questions you raise on Monday.

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