A heated discussion regarding health insurance was the most prominent among a few hotly debated issues brought up during the Riverside City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 16.
The meeting lasted for close to three hours, with a large chunk of it focusing on potential changes to healthcare plans for the city’s employees.
“Most of my employees would rather have the cash in their pocket instead of better benefits, and then some people would say ‘give me pay cuts, but I want the best health insurance,’” council member Edgar McGuire said. “So, it’s that fine line of balancing both of those out.”
Previously, the city contributed $2 for every $1 an employee would put into their health savings account (HSA). This would continue for up to $3,000.
In a normal year, as mayor Allen Schneider put it, some of that balance would carry over on a year to year basis.
According to city administrator Christine Yancey, only 29% of Iowa municipalities offer an HSA to their employees. The majority provide flex spending accounts, which cannot carry over on a year to year basis.
This year, the city is matching every $1 contributed by employees with only $1. The city will be paying 100% of the premium in a high deductible plan and 90% of the premium for family plans. Additionally, Schneider said the premium cost would go down with a high-deductible plan.
The initial resolution failed to find a second vote to carry it, with council members expressing their uncertainty about exact payment percentages. Once the intricacies were fleshed out, it passed, three votes to two. Similar proposals for dental coverage and life insurance passed four votes to one, with council member Tom Sexton being the only person to vote against all of them.
“I’m all for helping out with the insurance,” he said, “but I don’t entirely agree with the premium percentage breakdown.”
Before voting on the resolution, a handful of city employees present fielded their comments on the proposed changes. The HSAs had only been implemented a few years prior, and many of the employees thought they had been a downgrade from previous health insurance plans.
“My question is to you is, what do we need to do different not to [have our insurance taken down] when our revenues are up, our income is up, and our surplus is up?” city clerk Becky LaRoche asked the council. “Because whether it’s out of your pocket on payroll or out of your pocket on deductibles, as a family it’s still the same thing at the end. We’re taking a hit,” LaRoche said.
This meeting did have health as a forefront in more than just the discussion topics. It concluded with the council members mentioning rising coronavirus cases throughout southeastern Iowa. Notably, in response to the uptick, the council had spread out even further and wore masks for the entire duration of the meeting. They required guests to wear them, as well, and had an intense discussion as to whether they would be able to enforce such a mandate citywide. At meeting’s end, the council considered changing their biweekly gathering to an online format, at least for the near future.