GONZALES — Change is coming to the Ascension Parish government’s insurance plan.
After more than an hour of discussion Thursday night, the Parish Council unanimously voted to shift away from Humana Inc. and instead use Coventry Health Care Inc. as its insurance provider.
The council initially voted 5-3 against Coventry, and then after some pleading from the administration, voted 6-3 against postponing an additional vote. After receiving additional information from Harry Robert, the parish’s insurance agent who had recommended leaving Humana, the council unanimously voted to select Coventry.
Robert said the cost of Humana’s plan was going to increase roughly $300,000 in 2013, while Coventry offered a rate that could save parish employees 4-10 percent and also would cap the next year’s rate increase at 14 percent.
Councilwoman Teri Casso said the council would be fiscally irresponsible by choosing to stay with Humana.
“The people have demanded that we do more with less,” she said.
“We’re taking a big chance on something that could cost our employees down the line,” Councilman Kent Schexnaydre said.
Parish officials were considering a change in insurance coverage no matter what, as they decided they couldn’t afford to continue with the current preferred provider organization, or PPO, option with a low-cost deductible. Doing so would cost the parish approximately $700,000, Robert said.
“It just worked its way out of being reasonable,” he said.
Instead, the parish will now offer employees a health savings account, called HSA, with a higher deductible. However, Robert said, that will allow for premiums to be lower and could actually save employees money in total out-of-pocket expenses.
Parish President Tommy Martinez said that initially, employees weren’t happy with losing the PPO plan. However, parish officials tried to sell them on that being the best way to continue providing 75 percent of health insurance costs for employees.
While they weren’t “100 percent sold,” Robert said, it became obvious that switching to Coventry’s HSA plan was the best option.
“I think objectively, the majority of people understand why that would be a reasonable recommendation,” Robert said.
Other business coming before the council included:
FIRE TAX ELECTION: The council approved a resolution putting a proposed 15-mill ad valorem tax proposition sought by Fire Protection District No. 1 on the May 4 municipal general election ballot.
The council previously had voted to place that tax election, which also would call for annual parcel fees of $100 per commercial parcel and $32 per residential parcel, on the Dec. 8 general election ballot. On a $150,000 house with a homestead exemption, the 15-mill tax would cost an additional $112.50 per year.
However, Malcolm Dugas, attorney for the fire district, said the U.S. Justice Department didn’t approve the tax election soon enough to allow the Louisiana Secretary of State sufficient time to place it on the December ballot.
The fire district’s board also approved a resolution for the May 4 election Wednesday, Dugas said, adding he doesn’t foresee any further problems getting approval for the election.
“We’ve been assured by the Justice Department that approval is coming — it’s just a matter of when,” he said.
Fire Protection District No. 1 serves more than 72,000 people in Ascension Parish and most of the areas outside of Prairieville and Donaldsonville. Revenues generated by the tax would go toward operations, facilities and equipment for the district.