North Adams employees likely to face cut in insurance benefits

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NORTH ADAMS — City employees likely will be asked to take another cut to their benefits in the coming year.

The city's health insurance costs are skyrocketing again this year after employees received $1.08 in health care services for every $1 they paid in premiums last year, a figure Mayor Richard Alcombright said is to blame for the dramatic increases.

Even after renegotiating the employee health insurance plans in 2013, which immediately netted the city some $400,000 in savings, the city's health insurance budget has increased a total of more than $800,000 in the last three cycles.

In the mayor's draft budget introduced to City Council last week, health insurance costs are expected to rise from $4.29 million in fiscal 2016 to $4.45 million, an increase of 3.7 percent.

"No matter what we do, the question is not going to be how much can we save for a similar plan," Alcombright said. "The question is going to be how much we are willing to take with respect to a cut in benefits."

Alcombright discussed the health insurance situation with the City Council's finance committee during a meeting on Monday. The Finance Committee is reviewing the mayor's proposed fiscal 2016 budget in a series of meetings.

The next scheduled session is on May 23 and will include discussion of the proposed public services and public safety budgets. The final budget was scheduled to be voted on by the full City Council on June 28.

The city will begin the process of reassessing its plans in October, and likely wouldn't receive prices on the plans until March.

The adjustments in coverage could result in higher co-pays, Alcombright said.

"That's the scary part. How are we going to be able to have an impact on that number while still maintaining some level of quality insurance for employees?" Alcombright said. "That's going to be the big question."

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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