Health care switch could equal savings

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NAUGATUCK — The borough is one step closer to switching health insurance carriers for municipal and school employees after a vote Tuesday by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses.

The board gave Mayor Robert Mezzo and Controller Wayne McAllister the authority to change health insurance providers for borough employees.

“It’s looking very likely, given the quotes we’ve received,” Mezzo said.

The renewal prices next year for CIGNA, the borough and school board’s health insurance carrier for the past two years, increased 25 percent for municipal employees and 20 percent for school employees. For the school system alone, that means a $760,000 budget increase in the same year the school system will lose $1.4 million in non-renewed federal grant funds.

The budget gap has caused the school board to propose closing Central Avenue Elementary School and Prospect Street School, and cut every increase out of the budget except contractually mandated raises and rising utility costs.

Some savings in health insurance could allow the school board to request additional positions such as keyboarding teachers, an assistant business manager or a police officer for City Hill Middle School, school board Chair David Heller said last week.

Bids from other health insurance companies have been submitted and unsealed, with Aetna as the lowest bidder, Mezzo said. The borough’s insurance brokers are working to determine whether the renewal prices from the companies that bid could be capped in the second year, or whether the increase could be spread out over two years to prevent a large jump, Mezzo said.

If officials decide to go ahead with the carrier switch, all the borough’s bargaining units will have to be informed. During the switch to CIGNA two years ago from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, all the unions signed memorandums agreeing to any insurance provider change that means equivalent or better coverage, Mezzo said. That means, among other things, that 95 percent of the medical providers from the employees’ old network must carry over, Mezzo said.

“It’s a cooperative effort, in many respects,” Mezzo said.