Kingston seeks cheaper rates on employee health insurance

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By Mike Gibson

In their never-ending quest to cut costs, Kingston City Council members looked to reduce one of the city’s largest annual outlays by calling for new insurance quotes.

In the end, though, council members decided that other pastures aren’t always greener and elected to stick with the current package—a combination of Cigna and Blue Cross, obtained through the state of Tennessee—to provide insurance benefits for its employees.

Council called for new quotes at earlier meetings this spring, then considered the results at May sessions. And while there were a few quotes that looked cheaper in the short run, Kingston City Manager David Bolling said those plans may not be as sure over the long haul as the one provided through the state.

“We know we’re not going to have a rate increase at the end of the year,” Bolling said. “Under the state plan, we have lots of protection, and it’s a time where there’s a lot of uncertainty in the insurance industry right now. Some of the savings we might get [with a different plan] look nice, but when you look at the overall picture, we may be better off with what we’ve got. We could easily end up with a more expensive product for less service.”

A committee representing city employees reviewed the new insurance quotes, and recommended unanimously that council stay with the current plan. Council member John Byrkit spoke with committee members, and reported that, “the biggest thing I heard from them was a fear of the changes going on.”

He added that the state plan had the added stability of drawing on a pool of thousands of workers in seeking rates from health care providers, “as opposed to us going out and shopping for 60 people.”

Kingston Mayor Troy Beets said employee insurance is the most expensive single item on the city’s list of expenditures year to year.

“The committee did an extensive comparison of all the submittals in making their recommendation,” he said.