City will absorb workers' health insurance hike

Reflecting the plight of health insurance nationwide, Carson City will pay a little more and get a little less in return for its employees this year.

Health plan premiums will rise 10 percent under a contract approved Thursday by Carson City supervisors, at an estimated cost of $500,000 to the city, while the cost of a doctor visit will go up slightly and the deductible for in-patient hospital stays will rocket from zero to $200.

Rising health-care costs, fewer competitors and a state law mandating Nevada's local governments provide benefits to retirees led to the increase, said Carson City Human Resources Manager Linda Roth.

"We decided to take less benefits to keep the increase at 10 percent," she said.

The city's current insurance carrier, Saint Mary's HealthFirst, still offers the best plan around, Roth told supervisors, although it's one of only two plans available.

With the contract for employee health insurance from Saint Mary's coming up for renewal, the city requested bids for a new plan earlier this year.

Just one other insurance carrier responded, and with a proposal Roth said contained far less benefits and a price tag 60 percent higher.

If health insurance continues on the path of fewer services and skyrocketing fees, Roth said, the city could someday be faced with the prospect of becoming self-insured.

"The problem is there just aren't that many players in Northern Nevada," she said.

Supervisor Pete Livermore said there are other options for employee insurance plans should St. Mary's someday decide to pull its health insurance business out of Northern Nevada, as several other carriers have done in recent years. The Nevada League of Cities, of which Carson City is a member, has a health plan member municipalities can join, he said.

"That's a good plan," Roth said. "We just happen to have a great plan."

The city pays the entire premium for employees and 50 percent of the premium for most employees' dependents, so some city workers will see a 5 percent increase in the cost of their families' insurance.

Retirees will see much more varied changes in their plans, from no change at all to a 17.3 percent increase, depending on which of the many plans the retiree is on and how many years of service the person logged with Carson City.

The city's human resources department has scheduled a "benefit fair" from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday in the Carson City Community Center Gym, 851 E. William St.. Human resources personnel will go over the changes with employees.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at or 881-1217.


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