The efforts of the City of Wauwatosa and its employees to contain costs have benefited the Wauwatosa taxpayers while providing comprehensive health care coverage for City employees. The following email was sent to the City Administration and the Common Council recognizing these efforts.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Good Morning Mayor, Jim Archambo, Beth Aldana and Common Council Members –
I was happy to see that Wauwatosa Now (see May 27 article attached) provided Wauwatosa residents the opportunity to learn about the City Administration and Common Council’s efforts to bring some control over the cost of employee health insurance. Mr. Archambo and Ms. Aldana are to be commended for their steadfast and successful effort to reduce health care costs. The savings that have been achieved are substantial.
Far too often, there is little recognition of your successes. You need to know that the Tosa Taxpayers Alliance and the City of Wauwatosa taxpayers are appreciative of your efforts.
Jean Radtke and Dennis Menzel
Tosa Taxpayers Alliance
In case blog readers did not see the article in the May 28 edition of WauwatosaNOW below you will find a copy.
City health insurance costs plummet over past several years
New provider, worker contributions credited
By STEFANIE SCOTT
Wauwatosa has dramatically decreased its health insurance costs during the past several years, freeing up funds for other aspects of the city's operation.
Between 2005 and 2008, the city saw a spending drop of about $2.1 million, or 22 percent, due in large part to employees contributing to their health care benefit costs and a switch to an insurance provider that gives a much deeper discount, City Administrator James Archambo said.
"At a time when most communities are seeing their health insurance costs skyrocket, we've been able to find savings," he said.
For example, in the 2008-09 plan year, Wauwatosa's premium rate decreased 1.5 percent, while West Allis saw an increase of nearly 4 percent and Brookfield's jumped 10 percent. The national average was an increase of 6.3 percent, according to documents provided by city Human Resources staff.
The decreased costs have allowed the city to put money into reserves, bringing the balance to $5.6 million, Archambo said. That means fewer dollars come out of the budget's general fund to cover employee expenses.
Employee wages and benefits make up the majority of the city's budget.
Staff has been providing updates to the Employee Relations Committee - most recently on May 26 - about how the city is realizing those savings.
"Our employees' health is a burden to taxpayers," city Health and Productivity Coordinator Michael Loy said.
But by modifying health behaviors through an employee wellness program, HR staff members expect that they will see a significant decrease in health insurance claims, maybe as soon as 2010. The goal is to reduce health care-related costs by $667,980, or 10 percent, through improved health and decreased job absenteeism.
Wellness plans typically include screenings and testings that identify any diseases an employee may be at risk of developing. Behavioral coaching, lower deductibles for participating and flu shots are among the program offerings. Encouraging employees to visit walk-in clinics rather than higher-priced emergency room visits and to take advantage of retailers' $4 prescription programs has knocked off a few dollars for medical and pharmacy expenses, Loy said.
So far, 93 percent of eligible employees and many of the retirees have signed on, and in three cases cancer screenings resulted in early detection.
Staff members estimate the city would spent upward of $115,000 - nearly the $142,000 budgeted for the wellness plan in 2009 - if the cancer cases had advanced before detection. A few more life-saving screenings like those and the program will more than pay for itself, Archambo said.