Soldotna City Council member Jordan Chilson, right, speaks during a council meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna City Council member Jordan Chilson, right, speaks during a council meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna council OKs insurance overhaul for city employees

The plan changes are expected to save the city and employees roughly $477,000

Employees of the City of Soldotna will get new health, vision, dental and life insurance under changes to the city’s insurance plans approved by Soldotna City Council members on Wednesday.

The plan changes, which are expected to save the city and employees roughly $477,000, will take effect for the upcoming fiscal year, or the 12-month period that begins on July 1. Soldotna for more than two decades has provided insurance to employees through the State of Alaska’s Political Subdivision Health and Life plan, which offers coverage through Aetna.

For the current fiscal year, however, health insurance premiums increased by more than 22% and were set to increase another 8.1% for the upcoming fiscal year. Soldotna Acting City Manager Kyle Kornelis and HR Manager Jessica O’Reagan wrote in a May 3 memo to council members that, as a result, the city hired a health care consultant to analyze the city’s existing plan and compare it to others.

“Based on these results, Administration feels the City’s current health insurance plan is no longer competitive,” Kornelis and O’Reagan wrote.

They further suggested that the city switch to Premera for health, dental and vision coverage, to MetLife for life insurance and to VSP Providers for supplemental vision coverage.

Newly available to city employees by switching plans, the city said, is the option to opt out of the city’s health insurance coverage for employees who have other group health coverage. Employees currently are not able to opt out of the city’s coverage. Also in the works is a cash-in-lieu of benefits program for employees who opt out of city coverage, and a way for employee spouses to share in coverage.

“Changing health care plans, and associated benefits, will result in significant savings to the City and reduce employee premiums, while providing comparable coverage,” Kornelis and O’Reagan wrote.

Also during their May 10 meeting, Soldotna City Council members gave initial approval to the city’s biennial budget document for the next two fiscal years. That document, on which the council will hold a public hearing and final vote on May 24, proposes, among other things, raises for city employees and forecasts an increase in Soldotna’s sales tax revenue.

Soldotna City Council meetings can be streamed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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