It’s more than just money

Published 5:13 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When deciding to accept a job offer, a pay scale often isn’t the only factor in the decision. Other things, such as location and benefits, are also important.

Currently the City of Selma pays approximately $1.4 million for its health care coverage through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, according to the city’s figures.

Regardless of costs, all Selma officials seem to agree that the current plan is a significant benefit to working for city government.

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In October, the city council began looking into ways to save money on health insurance by sending employees to the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, which is intended to provide affordable health coverage to uninsured Americans. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare to others — also provides a stipend to those who meet certain income requirements. So, a city employee making $50,000 might pay more on the marketplace than someone making $20,000.

Regardless of how much employees pay, the marketplace would undoubtedly be cheaper than the city’s current plan.

Most of the savings would come from the fact the city would simply pay less per employee for coverage. The city currently pays more than $300 per employee and employees chip in about $70 of their own money.

Blue Cross estimated the city would have to provide a $120 stipend to help offset the cost of a marketplace plan. A switch to the marketplace would save the city about $1 million, according to figures provided by Blue Cross. The city would pay approximately $460,000 per year for employee stipend, representatives said.

While saving money is always beneficial, Blue Cross officials presented figures for a lesser plan. Though the city would be saving money, it would essentially be a downgrade for most employees.

Nearly 30 employees don’t take advantage of the city’s plan, according to city figures. The employees could be covered by a spouses plan. Or, the city’s plan could simply be too expensive to participate in.

For those who can’t afford to participate, perhaps a switch to the marketplace would be an upgrade.

It’s hard to dispute switching would save Selma money, but city officials shouldn’t just be worried about a financial balance sheet. The human factor is equally important. A switch to the marketplace could cause a lapse in coverage for some employees.

During flu season, health coverage is especially important.

The question that must be addressed is whether the city is willing to potentially compromise the quality of life for city employees to save money. Granted, $1 million is admittedly a significant portion, but the figure represents an entire year of savings.

At this point, the city would likely only see nine or 10 months of savings. Even if the plan is of equal value, which would reduce savings, it would also potentially affect the quality of life for employees. As the city moves to make a final decision, it should consider more than just the financial aspect.