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Council OKs cuts in retirees' insurance

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Lebanon City Council voted 5-1 Wednesday morning (Nov. 26) to approve, on second reading, renewing city retirees' insurance with only two changes to their benefits, following an amendment proposed by Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino.

The amended ordinance will eliminate duplicate vision coverage and foreign travel coverage for city retirees and their spouses, but will not increase their prescription copays by $5 per prescription.

Cesternino did not vote for the ordinance even though he was the councilor who proposed restoring the vision and foreign travel coverage cuts to the insurance renewal ordinance - cuts that Mayor Philip Craighead originally proposed but the council rejected.

The ordinance also should have included the increase in prescription copays to save the city money and make the payment of copays by employees and retirees equitable, Cesternino contended.

$2,097 in savings

Craighead said the cuts to the city's Cigna HealthSpring plan that the council did approve will save the city about $2,097 per year. The cuts will also correct a duplication of vision coverage, since vision is also included in the city's Blue Cross coverage for all employees and retirees.

The prescription copay increase that the council did not approve would have brought the retirees' copays up to match what all regular city employees are already paying, and it would have saved the city an additional $14,000, Craighead told the councilors.

The next discussion of budget balancing involving insurance will come in a work session at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, Craighead said. The agenda for the session says it will be held to discuss "health insurance benefits for future retirees," but Craighead said the discussion will be broader than that.

"We'll be discussing the insurance for our employees and retirees who are under 65 and not covered by Medicare," he said.

Final round in debate

The council's vote Wednesday morning to renew city retirees' insurance with only two changes was the final round in a prolonged pre-Thanksgiving debate about the issue.

The council voted 3-2 to reject all of Craighead's proposed changes on second reading last week after initially approving them 5-1 on first reading earlier in the week. Ward 1 Councilor Lanny Jewell and Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes were the two who switched their votes.

Voting yes to make the changes were District 2 Councilor Fred Burton and District 5 Councilor Tick Bryan, and Cesternino was absent.

Then this week, at a special-called meeting Tuesday morning, the council voted 4-1 for an alternative ordinance that Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath proposed which would have left retirees' benefits completely unchanged, requiring the city to absorb the additional cost.

This time, Burton and Bryan also changed sides on the issue from their previous votes. Only Cesternino favored making more cuts, and Jewell was absent from the 7:30 a.m. session.

However, everyone was present for a second special-called meeting at the same hour on Wednesday, when Warmath's ordinance was amended by Cesternino's motion - to include two changes but not a prescription copay increase - and approved 5-1, with Cesternino nevertheless voting against it.

The council will meet next in regular session at 6 p.m. Tuesday next week (Dec. 2), followed by a swearing-in ceremony at 5 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 4) for councilors elected or re-elected Nov. 4. They will include incumbents Cesternino and Warmath as well as newly elected Ward 4 Councilor Bernie Ash, who defeated Hayes in the election.

Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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Cigna, city council meeting, city employees, health coverage, Lebanon City Council, prescription copays, taxes
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