On Monday night the council voted unanimously to accept the $1.5 million in state grant funding to help pay for the voluntary buyout program, which involves the city offering a buyout to retirees 65 and older who are currently enrolled in the city’s healthcare plan.
Under the terms of the program, the city would provide $17,000 each to enrollees in the city healthcare plan between the ages of 65-69, $12,000 for those between the age of 70 and 74, $8,000 for those between the age of 75 and 79, and $3,000 for anyone 80 and over. Currently those enrollees pay a monthly individual premium to the city (between 17 and 20 percent of total insurance policy), but that would be waived if they opted into the healthcare buyout program. If they enroll in the new program, the retirees would also be required to leave the city healthcare plan and use healthcare plans being offered by one of two local companies – Northwest Financial Services or Arcade Financial Service, both operating out of Jamestown.
According to Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, about 300 of the 1500 members of the healthcare plan would be eligible for the buyout. He said that if all the $1.5 million is utilized, it would result in an annual savings for the city of $600,000.
The $1.5 million comes from the New York State department of State and is provided by a one-time grant through the New York Financial Restructuring Board, which has been working with the city to try and find ways to offset growing financial challenges in recent years.
Teresi said currently, annual healthcare costs for the city are about $2.2 million. The buyout plan could reduce that down to $1.6 million.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, a representative from one of the two firms contracting with the city did offer some concern with how the city was trying to address its growing health insurance costs.
Arcade Senior Services president Tim D’Angelo said the buyout is only a short-term fix for the city’s growing healthcare costs, because it’s only a one-time shot of money. He said he could help the city identify a way to reduce healthcare costs over the long-term.
Teresi said that currently the city has contracts it has to adhere to with its collective bargaining units regarding how healthcare is offered to those workers and retirees. However, he added that he would be willing to talk further with D’Angelo to learn more about how the costs could be reduced for the city.