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City employees will tackle rising health insurance costs

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With expenses rising and showing no signs of abating, the city of Ogdensburg has created an employee committee to help figure out ways to cut health insurance costs for city workers.

City Manager John M. Pinkerton and eight other city employees met for the first time last week to begin dealing with a growing private and public sector problem.

“We’re working collaboratively to try and mitigate the (health care) cost increases,” he said Tuesday.

The city is self-insured. The city’s bill for health care coverage for its 516 current and retired employees and their dependents in January and February came to $638,071.72.

That two-month total represents 24.08 percent of the $2,650,267 budget for this year, and reflects a monthly average bill of $319,035.86. March health insurance costs have not yet been calculated.

The city’s health care budgets of recent years have often exceeded their projections, with the rising costs of prescription drugs a notable factor.

Last year, according to the city comptroller’s office, the total bill was $2,652,387.51, an increase of $152,320 over the $2,500,068 that was budgeted.

In 2011, the city’s total health care bill was $2,325,766.80, an increase of $75,606 over the budget of $2,250,161.

Mr. Pinkerton said the employee committee’s agenda for items for discussion so far includes prescription drug costs and wellness programs.

“We’re looking at different options,” he said.

In addition to the city manager, the other members of the committee are: City Comptroller Philip A. Cosmo; Coralee Barrett, Mr. Pinkerton’s secretary; Assistant Fire Chief Ronald D. Bouchard; Police Detective Sgt. Robert H. Wescott; Police Patrolman Mark T. Kearns; Patrick McCarthy of the Public Works Department; Matt R. Denner of the Parks and Recreation Department; and Julie Frazier-Gebo, of the Ogdensburg Public Library and Frederic Remington Art Museum.

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