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Portage council begins employee health insurance changes [The Times, Munster, Ind.]

By Joyce Russell, The Times, Munster, Ind.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 30--PORTAGE -- The Portage City Council on Tuesday took the first steps in changing what health insurance will look like for city employees.

It approved two ordinances and put on hold the possibility of pay increases for nonunion employees choosing a new health insurance plan.

The first group moving toward changes in health insurance are the approximate 35 nonunion employees. Open enrollment for the three new health insurance plans begins Feb. 11 with the new plans kicking in April 1.

As part of the deal, the administration has suggested those employees receive 3 percent pay increases.

"We are offering less rich health insurance and giving a raise to compensate," said Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham, adding the cost will be between $70,000 and $80,000.

However, the council held only the first reading on the proposed increase because of some unanswered questions regarding the ability to give some employees raises while holding off on others. It is likely it will discuss the issue again at its Feb. 5 meeting.

The city is continuing to negotiate with union employees. While the Fire Department contract is intact, police and streets and sanitation employees are currently in negotiations.

Mayor James Snyder said negotiations are going well, and the goal is to provide the same insurance options to all employee groups.

The council approved an ordinance allowing employees who choose the high deductible with a health savings account insurance option to sell back a week of vacation. They could sell back the week for 125 percent of its value or $1,000, whichever is greater, and have those funds deposited in their health savings account.

"We are raising their deductible and we want to give employees some sort of parachute," Snyder said.

The council also approved raising the city's self-insurance plan from $80,000 to $120,000 per employee.


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