Unions discuss a choice of options but families would pay much more (UPDATED with chart)

Sample of plan options offered this week

Discussions about next year’s health care coverage resumed Thursday with a proposal to give employees four different options for health care coverage — all under Empire Blue Cross.

The proposal would end charging employees a composite rate for health care and would instead charge different rates for singles, couples and families. For singles, it would mean significant savings. For families, it would likely mean major increases if approved.

The shift would let employees choose whether to pay a high deductible in return for lower weekly deductions out of their paychecks. Or they could choose a plan with no upfront deductible but with more money coming out of their paycheck every week.

Employees now pay $46.17 a week for health care.

Under the proposals put forth Thursday, the paycheck deduction could range from $10.11 to $30.04 a week for singles, from $19.70 to $58.59 weekly for couples, and from $29.30 to $87.12 a week for a family.

The cheapest plan would require employees to pay for the first $2,000 of medical care and 10 percent of subsequent costs (In all instances, preventative care like checkups would still be at no charge) for a total liability of $4,000. That figure does not count the premium deducted from paychecks.

In essence, employees under that plan would be taking the risk that they would not need much in the way of health care.

The other options were all very expensive for families, with weekly payroll deductions of $70.94, $80.37 and $87.12.

One of the options presented would enable employees to pay no deductible, but they would pay $25 for any office visit and $500 for any inpatient care, $100 for outpatient surgery and $100 for emergency room visits.

The other two plans presented came with $500 deductibles. In one scenario, employees would pay 10 percent of costs for care with a $1,500 out of pocket maximum. In the other, employees would pay 20 percent for care and outpatient surgery with a $100 fee for emergency room visits. In both instances, there would be a $35 co-pay for office visits.

For all but the high deductible plan, costs for medicine would be $10 for generic, $35 for brand name and $70 for nonformulary. Under the high deductible plan, medicines would cost $10/$25/$50.

By far, the biggest issue raised Thursday was the negative impact the change would have on families. According to the company, there are 32 individuals represented by the Guild who are on the company’s health insurance. There are 34 couples and 59 families.

The numbers discussed Thursday were all tentative, and the Company’s plan administrator, Rowlands and Barranca, said they were trying to determine whether there was interest in this approach.

Leaders of the Guild and other unions present, representing the mailroom and pressroom, said they would gather input from their members before talks resumed.

“We’ve paid a composite rate for decades. There is no question that means singles subsidize family coverage, but over the years that has been considered an acceptable choice given that many employees eventually move to family care,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “We appreciate the ability to examine different options but want to make sure we minimize the impact on employees especially after six years without raises.”

Changing health care along these lines would have to be carefully negotiated and any agreement would need to be approved by the membership. The union is awaiting a version of the document presented with the weekly payroll deducation calculations so that we can share those figures with our membership.


  • Ken Crowe

    Looking over this posting and the insurance discussion, I have a few questions.

    There’s no mention of the dental coverage. Does it remain the same? Is it included in the premiums? Is there a possibility of improving it?

    The contract says the insurance is suppose to be comparable from year to year and there is a set percentage that we have to pay. Is there a chance that the comparable would be the company’s share going forward? Multiplying out the company’s share, it appears the company pays $1,061,430.50 no matter what the plan is selected of the four. Does the company pay that much now?

    And, the percentages vary from about 11 percent up to more than 25 percent depending on the plan.

    How many people receive the annual buyout for being on another insurance plan?

    • Tim O'Brien

      Tim O’Brien replies: These latest numbers do not include dental coverage. The numbers the first week did.

      As for the comparability standard in the contract, which still applies, the Company has admitted this latest proposal would not be comparable to what we have now. It would require negotiation and if an acceptable agreement was reached, approval by the membership. How much of a share people pay and the Company pays would be part of that negotiation.

      I don’t have the numbers on how many people get the insurance buyout but can easily obtain that answer.

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