April 28--In the early morning hours Friday, city councilors voted to keep employees' health benefits under the present self-insured plan.
The emergency meeting was called for 7 a.m. because councilors split Thursday when deciding whether to remain in the current plan or switch to a plan turning responsibility to Community Care.
Friday's vote went 6-2 in favor of remaining under the current plan. Thursday's vote split 4-3. The emergency meeting was called because the city charter requires five affirmative votes for approval.
"Considering the outstanding health claims and having been made aware of a great probability of at least one reinsurance claim that is more likely than not to occur in this short time frame it is highly probable that the city may face an imminent financial loss if it fails to make a decision immediately," said city attorney Roy Tucker.
Ward IV councilor Kenny Payne voted no to sticking with the current plan Thursday, but switched Friday and voted yes. Deputy Mayor David Jones, absent Thursday, attended Friday and voted yes as well.
Payne said despite changing his vote, the principal he voted on Thursday -- favoring stability of a new plan versus "the risk" of the current plan -- was the same. However, information he heard Thursday helped change his mind.
"There was a woman that spoke (Thursday) and said there's a senate bill on the floor right now about Obama's health care initiative," Payne said. "If it passes, and right now it looks like it will, private health insurance rates could double."
Payne said he originally voted against staying with the current plan, in part, because the plan has taken the city, "through a series of incidents," that have turned an $800,000 surplus to a $500,000 deficit.
"Who knows, next year we could have a great year and find ourselves even-steven," Payne said. "But we don't know that. Staying self funded is a bit of a gamble, but given the fact the workers have been so vocal about making concessions to make sure the self-insured plan works, I think they deserve a chance."
Thursday's vote split with mayor Bob Coburn and council members James Gulley, Ward II, Randy Howard, Ward III and Lee Ann Langston, Ward I, voting yes. Dissenting were council members Dan Hall, Ward II, Derrick Reed, Ward III and Kenny Payne, Ward IV. Deputy Mayor David Jones and Ward IV councilor Wayne Johnson were absent.
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or email@example.com.
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