COLUMBUS, Ga. – Healthcare premiums are soon to be on the rise for employees working for the city of Columbus. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson’s proposed budget for FY2017 includes a penalty for people like Lasonja Gordon, who, on her current HMO, would be docked $50 from her paycheck every pay period.
This comes on the heels of seeing pension reform take shape over the last few years. News 3 is digging deeper into how rising costs for the coming year will affect peoples’ wallets. Gordon works in the Superior Court office. She says she would like to be able to make choices when it comes to her healthcare and pension needs. But she doesn’t want to be penalized for traditionally keeping her current HMO plan. On the other hand, Mayor Tomlinson says the changes implemented in 2012 are finally paying off.
“The steps we took have been very beneficial,” Mayor Tomlinson said. “They’ve saved taxpayers more than $9 million. It’s given our hardworking employees more benefits and much more security for the future.”
The mayor says a lot of cities did away with defined benefit plans, similar to what Columbus has with pension and healthcare packages. But she wants to include a twist that includes some a la carte choices for city workers.
“We did ourselves and I think the community a favor by keeping our defined benefit plan and reforming our pension plan,” the mayor added. “We now have our public safety pension plan funded at 83%. Our general government pension plan is in the 90’s.”
The mayor wants more city employees to take advantage of the consolidated government’s health and wellness center on 10th Ave. But Gordon says she’s not too keen on the idea.
“Some employees have mentioned they’ve gotten the wrong medication, or there’s medication they can’t receive,” Gordon said.
Gordon also highlighted the personal one-on-one relationship between a doctor and patient that was not possible to recreate with the city’s health and wellness center. News 3 asked the mayor’s office for a copy of the pension changes. However, we have not yet received that request. The mayor’s office says the increase in healthcare costs and pension changes are needed because people are living longer.