Several city employees, including a police officer whose daughter has special needs, voiced concerns over Sealy’s new insurance policy during a special meeting Dec. 21, but the council moved forward with it after provider Entrust promised to meet one-on-one with employees before the policy takes effect Jan. 1.
Among the concerns were a lack of communication – employees had just two days to review information and opt in or out – and conflicting responses received from Entrust employees. But proponents of the plan say it may be better than taking the 17 percent rate hike that’s guaranteed if Sealy stays with current provider Texas Municipal League (TML).
Councilman John Hinze made a motion to rescind the council’s previous authorization for Interim City Manager Warren Escovy to work with the insurance provider on a new policy. Councilwoman Sandra Vrablec seconded, but the motion failed, meaning the city will go forward with the Entrust policy.
Escovy said Entrust’s package is a better deal.
“It looked like it provided the type of things that we wanted,” he said in explaining why the city pursued it in the first place after discovering that TML rates were rising.
Councilman Larry Koy expressed a concern that several employees aren’t happy with the new policy, which was pushed through without much time for review.
“We’re here to save money for the city of Sealy and the taxpayers, but also to provide the best insurance for the employees here,” Koy said.
Officials from a consulting group and Entrust spoke at length about the policy, and noted that it offers numerous benefits and services at any facility affiliated with Houston Methodist are free to city employees.
“You can have a baby for free,” said Eric Schulman, underwriting manager at Entrust. “You can have knee surgery for free at Methodist.”
Council members asked city employees in the audience if they support the plan. The responses were mixed and included concerns about a $750 monthly deductible and billing for mail-order prescriptions.
City Secretary Dayl Cooksey said the Entrust policy works best for her, but encouraged the council to consider all city employees.
Police Chief Jay Reeves, Detective Sgt. James Long and Capt. Scott Riske shared frustration with the lack of information and differing answers when they’ve tried to call Entrust offices.
Long, whose daughter must receive care at Texas Children’s Hospital, said employees are confused and there’s a lack of trust.
“Basically the impression I was left with was you go, you take your chances,” Long said. “I can’t get answers, and it’s kind of disturbing.”
Riske said his co-workers are “like family” to him, and he didn’t want to see them suffer.
“I never had a problem with the insurance,” he said. “My problem was with communication. There were only two days to digest it. It just seemed like it was a little rushed. The people in the meeting couldn’t answer our questions.”
Councilman John Hinze said he spoke to employees who said they were not approached by department directors or Entrust officials to discuss the policy. Employees were told to get their prescriptions early because the transition “would be hell,” he said.
“This is crazy,” Hinze said.
Escovy emphasized that the council already approved the policy, but Hinze argued that they did so based on a recommendation that it was a great policy that would save money.
“There was a quick turnaround because we wanted to make sure employees had continuous coverage,” Escovy said. “TML was not willing to work with us.”
Schulman assured the council that he personally would be willing to speak with employees one-on-one or by phone.