Meridian, Miss. The Meridian City Council has decided on a balanced budget, but steering away from Mayor Bland's proposal, the council voted 4 to 1 in favor of keeping their current healthcare provider, Fox/Everett. A main reason for that decision is timeliness.
"They said we really would like to have this information by the first part of September to make sure that there's no interruption in services because the effective date has to be October 1," said Ward 4 Councilwoman Kim Houston. "When you're dealing with health insurance, we need that policy to be apples to apples."
United Healthcare estimated $280,000 in projected savings. But Ward 1 Councilman George Thomas says they did have savings with Fox/Everett, as well.
"Same policy, $140,000 less. We could have gone with another insurance company that would have taken more money," Thomas said. "The city workers have been happy as far as I know. I've heard no complaints with the insurance company we have now."
Ward 5's Randy Hammon, the only councilman who voted in favor of switching providers, said his decision was to put taxpayers first.
"I want the employees at City Hall to have the best, but not at the expense of the taxpayers," Hammon said. "The taxpayers are the ones who foot the bill for a lot of this, and it's not fair to them that we want the very best of the best."
Mayor Bland had originally intended to use the money saved by switching healthcare providers for department head salaries. However, the council was unanimous in their decision that wasn't the best plan. Many say they must first prove their worth. And although Hammon voted in favor of switching to United Healthcare, even he says he believes those savings could be better spent.
Houston did say that switching providers might be a viable option for the future, but only when there is more time to prepare for such a change.