SUWANEE -- For the first time in more than 10 years, city of Suwanee employees will have a new health care provider.
City manager Marty Allen said last week that the city would switch from BlueCross BlueShield and select Cigna, and have the option of a high deductible plan. The city, through it its broker, Ascension, an independent contractor, began negotiations with BlueCross BlueShield in the spring about renewing its agreement for fiscal year 2013.
The initial increase from the 2012 fiscal year was proposed by BlueCross to be a 33 percent spike, Allen said, while the increase with Cigna is 9 percent. The plan covers about 80 employees and their qualified dependents, Allen said.
"Cigna was interested in getting our business, so guess what, they gave us a much better cost," he said.
Both providers offered an HMO and a PPO plan, but Cigna also included a high deductible health savings account plan.
Allen said each year the negotiating process follows a similar routine, starting with an eye-popping number and then gradually gets more reasonable.
"A lot of the healthcare companies are like, 'Oh, you're not going to change,'" Allen said. "It scares employees, so we try not to change if possible."
An advantage of the high deductible plan, Allen said, is it helps manage costs, and the city can deposit money pre-tax to offset some costs. When money leaves the account, it also helps employees be more informed and realize the costs, so they don't routinely visit the doctor for a headache, for example, Allen said.
As part of the city's 2013 budget proposal, it has proposed to re-start a wellness program that would cost about $150 per employee, with a total cost of $14,100. The budget is expected to be adopted at the city council meeting on Tuesday.