(ABC 6 News) – City of Austin employees, from street workers to supervisors, were hurt Monday after the city council approved a number of 2023 health insurance memorandums of understanding.
About 54% of city employees are currently enrolled in the city’s insurance plan. And if they drop below 50%, the insurance companies won’t even offer the city to provide insurance for its workers.
“There isn’t a single person in this city who isn’t affected because of this insurance plan. Our frustration is that they haven’t looked at other options that would be better for the employee,” said Tom Schulte.
Tom Schulte, an Austin city firefighter, said that over the past 3 years, premiums have increased about 12 times a year.
But this year, he’s looking at an increase of about 31%.
Schulte addressed the council ahead of the vote on Monday night telling them to vote “no”. Saying that city workers were given an ultimatum to sign this memorandum of understanding and that if they didn’t sign, Tom’s monthly insurance premium for his family would be over 13 hundred dollars. He says for some it’s two house payments.
Each of the memoranda passed 5 to 1, with council member Joyce Poshusta the only one to vote no at all levels.
Earlier this year, the city told its employees it would switch insurance companies, but workers now say their payouts and premiums have doubled. While the plans themselves got worse.
Employees proposed a plan to the city that would reallocate HSA money to premium costs to hopefully entice people to sign up for the city’s insurance plan.
“One of the issues is that we don’t have enough people on our plan to get a competitive price and so we had offered it to the administration and we don’t think it was properly presented to the board and today “Today they went ahead with their plan versus a plan that would work better for the employees. Right now there’s a lot of frustration with the employees over their insurance benefits,” Schulte said.
Schulte has been employed by the City of Austin for nearly 17 years now.
“When I started, insurance was affordable, and now it’s becoming a second mortgage,” Schulte explained.
And Tom says he’s not alone.
“It’s a shame to be here today. I would like you to address this and fix this, council,” another city employee said at the meeting.
“They are my colleagues. It doesn’t matter that they’re not in my department, they’re still my colleagues, and we should always try to get the best for the city,” adds Schulte.