By JOHN FLOWERS
ADDISON COUNTY — Town officials planning budgets in some local communities got a small reprieve last week when the Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) said the cost for the municipal health insurance would increase “only” 12 percent, instead of the 36 percent increase previously forecast.
Several Addison County communities — including Middlebury — buy their insurance through the VLCT Health Trust. The trust has in recent years done business with Blue Cross Blue Shield. But when that company announced a 36 percent increase to re-up for the current benefits package, the VLCT went searching for a more cost-effective proposal. The VLCT believes it has found a better buy in CIGNA.
“We are currently working with CIGNA to ensure that the plans we offer starting on Jan. 1, 2007, will provide your employees with comparable or better coverage than our current Blue Cross offerings,” reads a Nov. 8 letter from VLCT Executive Director Steven Jeffrey to member towns. “VLCT and CIGNA are fully committed to making this change in carriers proceed as smoothly as possible.”
Town of Middlebury Business Manager Kathleen Ramsay said a 36-percent hike in Blue Cross rates would’ve cost the town an additional $145,000 next year. That roughly translates to two full cents on the municipal tax rate — or a $40 property tax increase on a house appraised at $200,000.
A 12 percent increase will still add $50,000 to health care costs next fiscal year, but it’s a sum that will be a little easier for the Middlebury budget to absorb.
Middlebury currently has 50 employees who receive health benefits through the town. They pay 13 percent of the cost of their premiums, according to Ramsay.
“It’s looking very promising,” said Ramsay, of the switch to CIGNA.