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Manchester spends nearly $2.4 million less on health care

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 20. 2013 8:37PM

MANCHESTER — The city spent nearly $2.4 million less on health care for city workers and their families during the last fiscal year but had budgeted another $1 million in savings it didn’t realize, a city official said Friday.

“The one way to look at it is we assumed we’d end up saving more than we did,” city Finance Director Bill Sanders said.

City leaders took $1 million from the city’s health insurance reserve account “to balance,” Sanders said.

He said some budget numbers were developed before city unions finalized contract negotiations that included changes in health care coverage.

Claims totaled nearly $17.47 million between July 2012 and June 2013 compared to $19.85 million for the same period a year earlier, according to a report this week from the city’s insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire.

“It showed our employees were responsible for making good health care decisions,” Mayor Ted Gatsas said.

City workers paid a higher percentage of the costs for their health insurance premiums, 12.5 percent versus 5 percent the previous year, and saw their office visit co-pays go to $20 from $5, Gile said. Currently, workers pay 15 percent of their premiums.

“I think the good news is health care costs decreased by 12 percent,” city Human Resources Director Jane Gile said Friday.

The report said 3,149 people in an average month were covered under the plan, nearly 4 percent fewer than a year earlier. Gile said that included about 180 retirees under age 65 who paid 100 percent of their premium costs. The school district has its own Anthem plan, she said.

There were 17 people, called “high cost claimants,” each costing the city more than $75,000 each. Their collective costs totaled more than $3 million, or 17.6 percent of the total plan expenditures. Those 17 people consisted of nine employees, five spouses and three children.

Five high cost claimants with cancer collectively cost more than $1 million. Two people with hematology-related illnesses cost a total of $572,719.

Pharmacy plan costs decreased 14.1 percent, to $3.1 million.

The city’s two acute-care hospitals were the two top health care providers for city workers. Elliot received almost $2.39 million while Catholic Medical Center collected a little over $2 million.

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