Health Coverage Finalized in Sandown, Premium Reduced

SANDOWN – The board of selectmen handled most of the upcoming year’s insurance concerns in one fell swoop at their Nov. 4 meeting, deciding on plan coverage, increasing the amount in each employee’s Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), and deciding against any increase in premium contribution from employees.

Monday’s meeting began with a review of two plan options for the coming year, a status quo option that would increase the premium cost by 3.1 percent and an alternative that would save the town and its employees money.
The main difference in the two plans is that the alternative increases the deductible on non-generic prescriptions for each member from zero to $500. That was a concern for some employees, especially those with families, as it represents $500 for each family member.
Selectman Brenda Copp outlined the cost concerns, noting that she saw almost no difference between the two plans except for the prescription deductible, a concern some said may not affect any employee.
According to Copp, the status quo plan would cost $176,762.52 for the year, $17,676.52 of that covered by the employees. The alternative plan would cost $144,304.31, with $16,033 covered by employees. That alternative represents a savings over current spending of more than $17,000.
That was enough to convince Copp that the alternative was the way to go. To quell concerns on the increased prescription deductible, Copp suggested that employees who may have an issue with that portion should contact the selectmen’s office and the selectmen could rethink their decision at that point, should any employee have an illness that requires the specific drugs that fall under that deductible.
A motion by Copp to accept the alternative plan was approved unanimously by the board.
In response to the increased deductible, employees suggested that some of the savings the new plan provided could go to increasing the HRAs, a suggestion that met with some approval by the town’s insurance agent. Some employees noted that they use up their entire $1,500 HRA and that an increased prescription deductible combined with an already high deductible of $9,000 for a family was too much. The deductible exposure for employees has steadily risen over recent years, combined with high rate increases and less coverage, despite the board’s efforts to keep things status quo for employees.
The discussion had selectman Jim Devine at one point call out the insurance companies and their “hand over fist profits.”
The selectmen originally created the HRAs for each employee as a way to help with ever increasing deductibles. Last year they added $500 to the accounts to split a $1,000 increase in deductible at that point.
Once the board decided on a plan, Devine suggested increasing the HRAs to $3,500. The rest of the board said that was too steep of an increase.
Eventually they decided to increase the HRAs by $500, to a total of $2,000, despite Copp’s questioning why the move was necessary, seeing that the plan chosen didn’t have an increased deductible and she had suspicions that the prescription deductible would not affect the Town’s relatively young and healthy workforce.
Police officer Chris Rothwell had previously noted that he did not have insurance for his family today, but for the future, and though the deductible in question didn’t affect his family now, it may.
Copp said that while she loved the town’s employees, she had to look out for taxpayers, and frustration had her at one point say the selectmen were giving far too much away to employees.
Chair Tom Tombarello suggested the compromise in HRA increase of $500, agreed to by all but Copp.
Copp also lost a brief fight to increase employee premium contribution levels by 2 percent, from the current 10 percent. No other selectmen sided with that proposal.
Copp’s aim was to bring the percentage in line with the police union’s 12 percent, but Tombarello pointed out it was specious to compare union and non-union employees on health insurance coverage alone.

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