China Town employees get a new health plan

by Mary Grow

Their meeting twice rescheduled due to lack of power, China selectmen finally connected with two health insurance experts at a Nov. 1 meeting that was also attended by town employees.

China employees, like those in many other Maine towns and cities, are insured by the Maine Municipal Employees Health Trust, a nonprofit affiliate of the Maine Municipal Association. According to Director of Health Trust Services Anne Wright, they have the best of the five insurance plans offered.

At the instigation of board member Jeffrey LaVerdiere, selectmen invited a representative of F. A. Peabody Company, an insurance broker, to talk about private insurance plans.

Max Lynds, vice president for Life and Benefits in Peabody’s Houlton office, said up front he could not duplicate the current policy with no deductible and low co-pays. However, LaVerdiere said, if a different policy cost employees more the town could reimburse them and still save enough on premiums to come out ahead.

An hour-long blizzard of facts and figures followed – co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles, health reimbursement accounts, health savings accounts, drug benefits, diagnostic benefits, primary care providers, specialists, in-network, out-of-network, individual rates, couples rates, family rates. After the presentations and questions, selectmen considered town employees’ health insurance in an executive session. After that, Town Manager Daniel L’Heureux reported, they voted to switch to the Health Trust’s POS (Point of Service) 200 plan. L’Heureux estimated future savings to taxpayers at about $23,000 a year. Asked the effect on taxes on a $100,000 house, he replied the homeowner would save about $5.

There is a general expectation that rates will increase in 2018. L’Heureux said during the discussion that Health Trust rates are likely to increase from two to six percent, private group plans from 15 to 18 percent and individual rates by even more. Neither Lynds nor Wright contradicted his figures. The next regular China selectmen’s meeting is scheduled for Monday evening, Nov. 13. L’Heureux said the agenda includes a review with China’s emergency service providers of the stipends voters approved at the March town business meeting.

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