Oak Creek combats rising health costs
City workers will pay more, but also gain cheap access to clinic
Oak Creek — In the face of a $350,000 yearly increase in health insurance costs to the city, the Common Council voted to increase the amount employees will pay for health insurance.
Also, he city has partnered with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in a move officials hope will lower insurance claims.
Employees will shoulder roughly $100,000 of the increased insurance costs through higher deductibles on medication, increased medicare supplement costs and the elimination of a copay reimbursement program. The city has also agreed to pay Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare $203,000 per year to allow employees to use the hospital at a discounted rate.
Higher employee rates
City workers will now pay between $20 and $40 more for medications, have a $500 increase to their medicare supplement deductible and pay $5 more per office visit (now at $25) and $10 more for urgent care visits (now at $50).
While many council members begrudgingly accepted the measures, citing the increases as a side effect of nationwide medical inflation, Alderman Dan Bukiewicz cast the sole vote against the increases.
Bukiewicz said he wanted to explore other options to mitigate the increasing costs and that he was angry that the city's wellness program was going to be discontinued.
Alderman James Ruetz and Thomas Michalski countered, arguing that the new health insurance plan would be competitive with private health plans.
Responding, Bukiewicz said, "In many instances private sector employees have access to bonuses such as 401k stock matches to offset some of the costs," he added. "Here you're bound by government rules and ordinances as to how much you can make."
The city also approved a motion to add Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare as a near-site center for the next three years at $203,000 per year.
Under the plan, retired employees, current employees and their spouses and children will be able to use the health center for non-emergencies at $10 per visit.
Visits would mainly include preventive care such as diet coaching and physical examinations. The health center will be open for five hours per day every business day of the week.
City administrator Gerald Peterson projects the agreement will cut insurance claims paid by between 60 and 100 percent, resulting in a positive return on the city's investment in the partnership.
The agreement simply makes sense and should make treatment more convenient to workers, Peterson added.
"If you're an employee and you have a cough, do you want to go to Waukesha where your doctor is and pay more or do you want to go here and pay less?" he asked rhetorically.
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