LIVINGSTON — Livingston Parish government can’t continue to pay 100 percent of the health insurance premiums and deductibles for employees and their families, Parish President Layton Ricks said.
“We cannot continue as we are going now,” Ricks told the Parish Council during its meeting Thursday night.
Tom Besselman, the parish’s insurance agent, said Ricks instructed him to find a way to save $600,000 while being sensitive to the needs of the employees.
Blue Cross wants a 12 percent increase in premiums for the coming year, Besselman said, adding that he expects to get proposals from two other companies.
He told the council that he has suggested a change under which employees would pay half of their deductibles and half of the insurance premiums of their families.
Besselman said the parish would continue to pay the first half of the deductibles for employees and for their families, but the employees would be responsible for the second half.
Under questioning from the council, Parish Treasurer Jennifer Meyers said that would cost an employee $593 a month for family coverage or $320 monthly for an employee and spouse under the Blue Cross plan.
Livingston Parish’s benefits plan is better than that of other parishes, but its employee wages are lower, she told the council.
Councilman Delos Blackwell said employees have forfeited raises to keep the kind of coverage they have.
Ricks said he would like to give a percentage of the insurance savings back to workers in the form of pay raises.
Councilman Marshall Harris said every dollar given in raises will cost the parish $1.40 by the time Social Security and other benefit costs are paid.
Besselman said that under the current insurance program, employees have no incentive not to put their families on the parish plan even if their spouses have insurance coverage offered by other employers.
He said he has no other client who pays 100 percent of the premiums and deductibles for workers and their families.
“This is the richest benefit package I have ever seen,” he said.
Even with the proposed change, the parish would be offering excellent insurance benefits, he said.
Councilman Ricky Goff said that if the council decides to charge workers for their families’ health insurance and force them to pay a deductible, he would like for the parish to give employees an indication of how much they can expect to receive in raises in the future.
Ricks said after the meeting that he plans to offer the council several coverage options once quotes come in from other insurers.