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Health insurance rates going up for city workers

After much debate, the Ironton City Council passed an ordinance about health insurance coverage for full-time city employees with Anthem for one year and decided to join the lawsuits to sue opioid makers and distributors.

Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith spoke to council before having to leave because she was speaking at the Martin Luther King Jr. event at Ohio University Southern.

She said that she has been working with Lawrence County Commissioner DeAnna Holliday and the Friends of Ironton about hosting the Ironton-Lawrence County Patriots Ball, which is scheduled for May 19 at Ohio University Southern.

“It is 150 years of the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade and we want to celebrate that,” she said, adding they are putting together corporate sponsorship packages. “Mark your calendars, it is going to be a grand, grand event.”

She added that the parade is going to be recognized by Congress again as the longest running continuous parade in the nation.

The subject of the insurance for city workers came up.

The city had two options for health insurance with Anthem, both of which has increases in premiums. Option one is a 14 percent increase with the cost to the city being $193,000 over last year. Option two is a 10 percent increase that costs the city $141,000 over last year.The finance committee had favorably recognized the 10 percent increase option at a previous meeting.

Councilman Jim Tordiff recommended that they chose the 14 percent option, contingent upon the recommendation of the finance committee.

“The reason I changed my mind from the 10 percent to the 14 percent is the mayor feels very strongly, after speaking with our labor relations expert, that the language in the contract with similar benefits with a $1,600 increase to maximum out of pocket, that’s not under the umbrellas of being similar,” he said. For the Jan. 11 meeting, Tordiff had done calculations and that 14 percent option would cost the city $21,581 for the family plan and would cost the employee $1,135.

The maximum out of pocket expense for the 10 percent option is $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for families and the for the 14 percent option it was $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families.

The council recessed from its regular meeting and went into an emergency finance committee meeting to discuss the matter. When they went back to regular session, the council voted to go with the 14 percent increase.

Councilmember Craig Harvey voted no against the ordinance, explaining that he did not want to hold up employees’ insurance coverage but if the measure had failed he would reconsider his vote.

The ordinance passed 6 to 1.

There was a resolution for the Lawrence County CAO to administer grants for the city for no more than $35,000 annually. That was tabled until the city has a budget for 2018 in place.

Another ordinance was about suing opioid makers and distributors of the prescription drugs because of the addiction problems and deaths the drugs have caused in the city.

Councilman Nate Kline was the sponsor of the ordinance and pointed out the city had 89 overdoses last year, and six of those ended in death.

“I can’t help but think that if we had six additional suicides or murders in our city, that we be wondering what is going to happen,” he said, adding that it is not only taxing the fire and police departments but that there are a lot of crimes associated with the drug problem. “I think this is an action the city should take, joining other municipalities that are taking similar actions.”

He pointed out that it wasn’t going to cost the city anything. The lawyer fees would be paid out of any settlement or court ordered payment.

According to the Associated Press, more than 200 lawsuits against drug companies have been brought by local communities across the country, including Portsmouth and Huntington. The lawsuits have been consolidated into what is known as multidistrict litigation.

The ordinance passed unanimously.

A strategic planning commission meeting was set for 5 p.m. on Feb. 8, one hour before the regular council meeting.