Health care change yields savings

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PROSPECT — Jumping into Region 16’s health care pool has proven to be fruitful.

Town employees joined Region 16’s health care plan at the beginning of this month — a move Mayor Robert Chatfield said will save the town approximately $125,000 in health care costs due to joining a larger pool. The town had 21 people in its group prior to the switch.

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, voted in June to allow the towns to join its health care pool. Officials from both towns requested to join the school board’s plan in an effort to save money, since both towns are considered small groups for health insurance.

Region 16 Director of Finance and Business Operations Pamela Mangini said there is no immediate financial impact for the Region inasmuch as Prospect will be invoiced separately.

Chatfield said town employees were able to remain with Anthem Blue Cross, their current insurance provider. Prior to joining the district’s health care pool the town was part of the Municipal Employee Health Insurance Plan (MEHIP), a state-sponsored insurance plan.

Beacon Falls had also entertained the idea of joining the district’s health care pool. But, according to First Selectman Christopher Bielik, it would have cost the town more money.

The town recently switched to a Health Savings Account plan, which is a high-deductible plan. Beacon Falls has 15 full-time employees in its health care plan.

“There was a small price differential, but it was in the wrong direction,” Bielik said.

Bielik said the town plans to look into pooling with the Region next year while in talks with one of its three bargaining units. Officials will also explore Connecticut’s new proposal, which allows municipalities to have access to state workers health care plan, he said.

“When we are reopening this we will compare all three,” Bielik said.

Chatfield said the town will have to choose whether to continue as part of the district’s health care pool by the start of the next fiscal year. He said the current unknown in the situation is the requirements that will be put forward by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

“For now this is where we are at. We are saving a considerable amount of money for the rest of the fiscal year. Hopefully that will reflect in next year’s budget,” Chatfield said.