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Debate ongoing in Stockbridge employee insurance flap

Photo by Jason A. Smith
Stockbridge City Councilman Fred Evans has come under fire by a benefits consulting firm, following his recent comments about a proposed insurance plan for city employees. The city council rejected the proposal Monday, by a vote of 3-2.

Photo by Jason A. Smith Stockbridge City Councilman Fred Evans has come under fire by a benefits consulting firm, following his recent comments about a proposed insurance plan for city employees. The city council rejected the proposal Monday, by a vote of 3-2.

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A benefits consultant is disputing recent remarks by a Stockbridge City Councilman, regarding a rejected insurance-coverage proposal for city employees.

Wendell Strickland, of the ShawHankins consulting firm, responded Thursday to claims made by Councilman Fred Evans. Strickland said Evans was wrong when he said the Coventry Insurance benefits plan, presented to the city council Monday, would only cover employees, and not their families.

"This statement is completely incorrect," said Strickland. "We made it clear that the payroll deduction costs for this plan, would remain unchanged. There would be no payroll cost changes made to the employees, and it would not cost them one penny more."

The city council, on Monday, rendered a 3-2 vote against the proposal from the Bethesda, Md.-based Coventry Insurance company. The plan offered a reported savings of $205,000 over its current package from the Georgia Municipal Association, offered through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia.

Evans was one of three councilmembers who voted against the Coventry plan, along with Shirley Dabney, and Harold Cochran. Evans told the Henry Daily Herald, on Wednesday, that the Coventry plan revealed potentially troubling news for employees and their families.

"The way it was explained to me, an employee's family would not have been covered under the new plan if we had gone with it -- only employees," Evans said. "I've had a couple of employees tell me their insurance would have gone from $71 a month, to about $9,000 annually. That's quite a difference, and it wasn't fair to them. The city could have saved some money, sure, but we've got to look after the people who are looking after us."

Strickland, on Thursday, countered by saying city employees, their spouses and children would, indeed, have been covered under the Coventry plan.

"It covers everybody with, no exclusions, including family coverage, and also covers all pre-existing medical conditions," the consultant said. "We tried to make this information as clear as possible. Every employee we spoke with seemed to understand all of the details being proposed, and overwhelmingly, wanted this to pass."

Councilman Mark Alarcon, along with Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Gilbert, favored the Coventry proposal, which was also supported by Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart. However, Stuart could not vote in the council's decision, because there was no tie vote.

The Coventry plan called for medical and dental coverage, as well as an option to put money into a health savings account to cover additional expenses. Strickland said 45 city employees, when polled about the proposed plan, were in favor of changing to Coventry, nine were opposed and 12 were undecided.

"I would be more than happy to meet with the Stockbridge Council to explain this again, in as much detail as they require, to understand what we are presenting," Strickland said.