LIVINGSTON — The Livingston Parish Council, in a split vote, agreed Monday to support Parish President Layton Ricks’ plan that will significantly change the manner in which the parish provides health insurance for its employees.
The final decision came after a lengthy discussion of the new plan which, Ricks claimed, could ultimately save the parish about 9.5 percent of what it is now paying for wages and health insurance for its workers.
Under Ricks’ plan, employees would be given pay raises that would increase workers’ salaries but would require the workers to shoulder some of the financial responsibility for their own health care insurance.
For many years, the parish has covered all costs of health insurance for its workers.
Voting to ratify Ricks’ plan were council members Marshall Harris, Ricky Goff and Joan Landry. Casting no votes were Chance Parent and Deloss Blackwell. Council President Cindy Wale abstained and council members Jim Norred, Sonya Collins and Ronald Sharp were absent from the meeting.
Under Ricks’ plan, a worker would pay $593 a month for a family plan, $320 a month for a plan that covers the worker and spouse, and $272 per month for a plan that covers a worker and children but not a spouse.
Ricks told the council that the parish would pay the first $3,000 of a $6,000 deductible, but that workers would be responsible for paying for the deductible once the initial amount ran out.
Blue Cross, the parish’s health care insurance provider, raised its premium rates by 12 percent for the current year, according to Jennifer Meyers, the parish’s finance director.
The parish president said about 20 percent of the workers are expected to opt out of the plan leading to more savings for the parish. He said once the cost of the plan is in place, the workers would learn just how much of a pay raise they will be receiving. Ricks said he discussed the proposal with the parish workers.
“I am going to take care of my employees,” he said.
Ricks said that enrollment in the new plan will begin Nov. 28 and will continue through late December. He said workers should know how much their raises will be by January.
Ricks insisted the move was necessary to address problems with the parish’s finances.
Harris challenged Ricks on several points regarding the plan and at one point told Ricks that it didn’t matter what the council decided since Ricks was prepared to go forward with the new health insurance plan anyway.
“I think it is wrong for you to sign a contract that could involve about $2 million before coming to this council and asking us to ratify what you are already prepared to do,” Harris told Ricks.
“Let’s don’t fight before we have anything to fight about,” Ricks said.
Harris retorted that “gray areas” regarding the powers of the council and the parish president need to be resolved.
When Wale asked for input from the audience, Taryn Creekbaum, who said she is a concerned citizen, said the council should not have voted on the measure because some of the council members are enrolled in the parish health care insurance plan.
“You have not been good stewards or defenders of the parish home rule charter during the past year,” she said.