The Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority voted 4-1 Thursday morning to provide money to Town Hall employees to pay for a 17.1% increase in their health insurance premiums for 2014.
Money will come from reserves — and won’t result in increased assessments to residents. It will be applied to the fiscal year 2014 budget. The higher rate comes after two years of declining costs.
Eva Rey, Lakewood Ranch Town Hall executive director, said she learned about the higher rate, charged by carrier Blue Cross Blue Shield, Oct. 10 — the typical time when insurance companies reveal rates.
That gave little time for the IDA to come up with long-term solution to what they see as a certainty of higher health care costs in the future.
Town Hall employees receive a $747.50 stipend when they’re hired to select from a multitude of health care options, provided by the employer.
The IDA will add the amount of the 17.1% increase in costs — which equates to $127 per month per employee and about $1,500 per year — to the stipend.
The board could have forced employees to pay for the increase or they could have split the costs — rather than pay for it in its entirety.
In his dissenting vote, Dave Emison, representing the consensus of his community development district, district 5, suggested the board should take a broader look at Town Hall’s benefits package.
IDA board members agreed they should evaluate other options — such as choosing an alternative insurance carrier or encouraging employees to explore the health care exchanges set up by the Affordable Health Care Act — in the future.
But the short notice required the board to take fast action now.
“Every organization in the country is reevaluating its health benefits plans,” said Tom Green, IDA chairman. “We need a detailed look at our benefits package. It’s due. We need to know. As a small organization that doesn’t offer a pension, we need to recruit and retain good people. And we have to make sure we keep repaying those people. So we have to address this now.”
The subsidy increase only applies to fiscal year 2014.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].