Suit seeks to delay health plan

May 12, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel firefighters union filed suit yesterday in Circuit Court to block the county from implementing its new health care plan, saying the cost to its members is still unknown.

The Anne Arundel County Professional Firefighters Association, Local 1563, is asking for a court order to prevent the county from issuing notices of the plan -- scheduled for Sunday -- that will require many employees to abandon their current health care plans.

A hearing on the request is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today before Judge Warren B. Duckett Jr.

The firefighters union, which represents 570 career firefighters, says the delay is necessary to give an arbitrator time to resolve two grievances about health care filed by county employees.

The outcome of the grievances could affect health care costs for all county workers, and accurate costs for the new health care package will be set only after the labor disputes are settled, the suit alleges.

"This would allow employees to make decisions regarding health care based upon the true nature and cost of the proposed health care plans, rather than on the basis of terms and conditions proposed by the county, which may be declared invalid," the suit says.

Deputy County Attorney David Plymyer declined to discuss the legal action late yesterday, saying he had only just gotten a copy of the suit.

Vince Caplins, vice president of the union, said health care costs have been a major concern for his members ever since County Executive Robert R. Neall proposed dropping the traditional Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance in favor of a cheaper, managed-care system.

Many members of the county's 4,100-member labor force also are angry that they are being forced to accept a health care system that leaves them with fewer choices of doctors and dentists.

The Neall plan relies on an HMO, with a pool of doctors providing health care services.

The county will pay 90 percent of those costs.

A more expensive plan, offering a choice of more doctors, also is available, but at a higher cost to employees.

Employees who seek health care outside of the managed-care network will pay 30 percent of their costs.

County officials said they expect to pay $1.5 million less for employee health insurance in the fiscal year that begins July 1, and will recoup $4.3 million in savings in the 1996 fiscal year and $8.4 million by 1997.

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