Company proposes shift of health care costs to families

In an initial discussion Wednesday about health care costs for 2015, the Company proposed eliminating the composite rate for insurance over the next three years.

The result would be a decrease in costs to single employees and a large increase of costs for employees with family coverage. Empire Blue Cross would continue to be the health care provider, and the dental plan would also remain the same.

Health-care coverage will be discussed at the union’s monthly Executive Board meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the union office in the Albany Labor Temple. Members are welcome to attend.

Employees now pay $49.02 a week for health care. In the first year of the Company’s proposal, that would drop to $45.22 for singles, increase to $53.09 a week for two people, and rise to $60.67 for family coverage.

The Company also presented figures for the other two years of the phase-in, but those numbers assumed health-care costs otherwise remaining flat. In the second year, singles would pay $34.80, coverage for two would cost $50.79 and a family plan would cost $66.16.

In the third year, when the composite rate would be completely eliminated, the cost would be $24.69 for singles, $48.54 for two people and $71.49 for a family.

For employees with families, that would mean a 46 percent increase in costs over three years or an added $1,168.44 for a year. Again, those calculations do not include any rise in health-care costs, meaning the actual increase would likely be larger.

The Company says it is seeking this shift to avoid paying an excise tax scheduled to take effect in 2018 under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Under the law, the Company said, a 40 percent tax would be imposed on the portion of most employer-sponsored health coverage that exceeds $10,200 a year for singles and $27,500 for families. For 2015, the composite rate would be $12,510.90.

Of course, this assumes the penalty takes effect in 2018. A new president will be in office by then, and Congress or the new leader could decide to delay or halt that provision of the law.

Information presented by the Company Wednesday showed the biggest drop among union-covered participants in the plan has been among singles. The number of singles taking the Company’s insurance dropped from 47 to 34 in the past year. The number of couples dropped from 52 to 50, and the number of family plans dropped from 88 to 85.

The composite rate has existed for decades. The system means singles carry some of the burden for others, though many have been fine with that over the years because they expected to one day become part of a couple or have children. And, of course, as with any health insurance, the healthy subsidize the sick so that a family enjoying good health could cost less on health care than a single facing an illness.

Without the attempt to phase out the composite rate, the Company said the year-over-year increase would be 3.6 percent. The health-care increase would have been flat, the Company said, if the number of singles on the plan had not dropped.

Guild President Tim O’Brien and Secretary Mark Hempstead listened to the presentation, along with leaders of other unions in the plant. Questions were asked, but the Guild leaders said they would take the information, study it, seek advice from our International and gather input from our members before responding.

We have attached all the documents we were given today if anyone cares to look for themselves: 2014-10-01 Health Insurance 2015


  • Audrey Lahoff

    I think the Guild should tell the company you cannot accept healthcare cost increases until a contract has been presented to the guild with a reasonable raise and job security terms. After it has been ratified by the members they can present healthcare options

  • Ken Crowe

    Is this health insurance plan the same that covers us now? With the move to the three payment classifications is the company offering a shift in plans that would result in lower out-of-pocket costs before the insurance would kick in? As I vaguely recall this was the circumstance last year. If the out-of-pocket costs are lower, that has to be weighed as a cost factor.

    And the money the company pays to people after they go pass $750, couldn’t it be asked that that money be distributed upfront into the HSA accounts of each member so they aren’t caught short? Then if the money isn’t used, it could be carried forward to the next year. This assumes I am correct in understanding this.

  • Marci

    As someone that has a “family plan” for myself and my 2 kids, I personally don’t mind having to pay a little more than an individual or couple, as I do use the insurance more than they might. However, I do see a problem with raising it so much for year 2 and 3. Also, it is frustrating that the company is so unwilling to discuss contract negotiations.

  • Joanne Hebert 21 year employee and over 7 years without a raise

    I totally agree with Audrey. Enough is enough people. Where are our backbones?! Where is our resolve to stand unified on a contract with the raises we deserve?! When does the company take us seriously and take responsibility for the hardships the lack of raises and revised commission plans has caused us!? When?? When.

  • Mike Jarboe

    Agree with Joanne. And perhaps the company is attempting to push more families off the plan. At this point most people with families have two incomes, and I cannot imagine why anyone with an option would want to remain on this plan.

  • CJ

    Why doesn’t the company pay us every year to NOT get coverage through them – in a way that doesn’t require us to jump through hoops – like other companies and the State do? many people I know get a lump sum every year, not a percentage of the estimated cost of coverage for the year at the END of the year. Plus, while we’re working without a real contract, does that insurance section still even apply?

    • Tim O'Brien

      Under the imposed conditions, the Company cannot impose any further changes without negotiation. Almost all the contract language still applies.

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