Fulton Common Councilors eliminated health insurance for future members of the Council, a gesture aimed at setting an example for unions in their contract talks with the city.
The city is self-insured and only receives reimbursement for health care costs when the bill exceeds $100,000 per person.
Three of the six members of the Council pay to receive health benefits from the city. A fourth, Peter Franco, receives his health care as a benefit from his retirement from the Fulton police department.
Neither Mayor Ron Woodward nor Council member and former Mayor Daryl Hayden could say how much will be saved by eliminating access to benefits. The city pays about $1,600 for every person on a health insurance plan that covers a family.
However, they said that the city and its taxpayers will avoid the risk of paying up to $100,000 for a major illness to a council member.
“Health insurance is out of control,” said Woodward. “This is not sustainable.”
“I don’t think I should be entitled to it,” said Hayden, who does not use the city’s health insurance.
Woodward said the city budgeted about $2 million for health insurance costs for 2011, but costs have run $800,000 above budget. Reimbursements will lower the deficit to about $500,000.
In its last contract with its police, fire and city worker unions, the unions agreed to accept a less generous health insurance package for new hires, one which does not cap the share of health care costs a worker pays for care.
Negotations are already underway with the union for fire department employees, Woodward said, with talks about to begin with the other unions.
Hayden believes that eliminating insurance for Common Council members, who are part-time city employees, sends a signal to the unions. “We have to cut costs for the city of Fulton and as the representatives, we have to set the example,” he said.
The change was approved unanimously (with Councilor Kim Roy absent) and takes effect immediately.