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Council Discusses New Health Care Plan

The Jamestown City Council Finance Committee discussed two new options for Medicare-eligible participants to enroll in new Medicare Advantage plans instead of being in the city’s self-insured program. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

There may soon be new options for Medicare-eligible participants in the city’s self-insured health insurance program.

On Monday, the council Finance Committee discussed the new health care plans during its work session meeting. Kim Ecklund, At-Large councilwoman, said the program would be voluntary for the Medicare-eligible participant to enroll in one of two new plans.

“It’s up to the enrollee to choose this option,” she said.

Ecklund also said that after one year, anyone who chooses to leave the city’s plan would be allowed to return if they are not satisfied with the new options.

Elliot Raimondo, city corporation counsel, said if either of the two new options would change, those who left the city plan would be allowed back. He also said that Highmark Western New York, formerly Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York, has guaranteed the two new plans for at least two years.

During the council’s full work session, Jeff Russell, At-Large councilman, said he chaired the Health Insurance Committee that was created by Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist. Russell said any Medicare-eligible participant who enrolls in one of the two new plans would not have to pay for health insurance for five years. He said after five years, the person would be locked into the current rate they pay for life.

According to a staff report on the new health care options, the potential savings to the city are dependent upon the total number of enrollees. The city could potentially save $1,580 per participant per year and on average could save up to $1,800 per year per participant in the initial five years.

In his 2021 Executive Budget proposal, Sundquist had proposed switching retirees over the age of 65 from the city’s self-funded health care program to a medicare supplemental plan, which Sundquist said, at the time, would result in $1.1 million in savings. The proposal was pulled by the council before voting on the 2021 budget last November because current and retired union members spoke against the proposal and picketed in front of the Jamestown Municipal Building.

The council is now slated to vote on the new proposal during its voting session meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers on the second floor of the city Municipal Building.

In other business:

• The Finance Committee did not vote on a proposal to reimburse Zachary Altschuler, assistant to the mayor, for the cost of tuition for classes he took online at the State University of New York at Brockport.

Ecklund said during her tenure on the council, which started in 2003, she has never witnessed the council fund a reimbursement for tuition. She also said the city’s management guidelines states that the council needs to approve the payment prior to a city employee taking the classes.

“It’s very clear in the management policy,” she said. “At this point it’s denied, in my opinion.”

Marie Carrubba, Ward 4 councilwoman, also questioned if the classes were necessary for Altschuler to perform his duties as the assistant to the mayor. Tony Dolce, council president, said he didn’t think Altschuler pursuing his master’s in public administration is a requirement for his position.

“This was denied and the reason being is that procedure wasn’t followed,” Ecklund said during the council work session meeting.

• The Public Safety Committee also approved a special event application for Shults Management Group, which will be holding a fireworks display next Saturday at its location along Fluvanna Avenue to celebrate the autodealer’s 50th anniversary. The application had been tabled last week because there were outstanding questions regard the insurance certification, a request for police and no payment for the special event permit.

Brent Sheldon, Ward 1 councilman, said Shults is funding for two police officers to be at the celebration. Also, Shults provided their insurance certification and paid for the special event permit.

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