City expected to OK increase in health costs paid by elected, appointed officials, nonunion workers

February 19, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Faced with a mounting budget crisis, the city's Board of Estimates is expected to approve a proposal today to increase health care costs for elected and appointed officials, and all other nonunion city employees.

The proposal would take effect Jan. 1 next year and is expected to bolster Mayor Martin O'Malley's chances of persuading unions to agree to similar calls for increased health care contributions. O'Malley said in his State of the City speech this month that city workers should expect such sacrifices in order for the city to control its budget. Overspending for the fiscal year ending June 30 has been projected at $10.6 million.

The city government's health care costs are expected to increase at a rate of 10 percent to 13 percent this year and next. A total of 78 percent of the city's 2,027 nonunion employees participate in the CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield plan, the city's most expensive option.

The proposal before the Board of Estimates stated that the cost to the city is $71 million. The proposal would increase the premium cost-sharing for all those employees to 20 percent. The current cost sharing for employees, according to the city's report, is between 4.6 percent and 12.2 percent of premiums.

In addition co-pays for prescription drugs for nonunion employees would double, the proposal states. The proposal would also reduce affected employees' cost sharing from zero to 20 percent for in-network hospital services and from 20 percent to 30 percent for out-of-network hospital services.

City officials said that the proposed changes will reduce medical and prescription drug costs by $4.1 million annually.

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