By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - After a month of debate, Columbus City Council voted 7-3 Tuesday to approve a new healthcare plan for city employees as a solution to the city's unexpected $3 million dollar deficit to fund healthcare.
But it's not exactly the same plan Mayor Teresa Tomlinson proposed last month.
The amended plan was proposed by Counselor Skip Henderson during Tuesday's meeting.
"We couldn't afford to not do anything, financially it wasn't feasible, but our focus has to be on the employees and trying to minimize the impact as much as we can," Henderson says.
The new plan has all the same increases as the original plan, except the $660,000 employee contribution, meaning premiums will not go up and employees' paychecks won't go down.
Like the original plan, this plan increases doctor office visit copays by $5 and emergency room visits by $100. It also increases the cost of prescription medications and the surcharge for smokers.
"Most of the increase is going to be born by the people who are actively using the plan. It's not the perfect scenario, but I think it's the best," Henderson says.
Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson asked council to take some more time and not vote Tuesday.
"I think what they have done is put a Band-Aid on a serious issue. I feel like they should have waited until they had all the information from all the sources and then sit down and make a vote," Robertson says.
He says he does not think today's vote does not offer the best financial solution to employees.
"I think the healthy employees are going to be happy and I think the unhealthy employees, some, are going to be devastated," Robertson says.
Counselor Bruce Huff was one of the three who voted no Tuesday, saying he agrees with Robertson.
"We needed to sit down as a group, like we have done in the past and let them have more input, more time and devise a plan that would have a little bit for the government and a little bit for the employees," Huff says.
The plan goes into effect January first.
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