Austin city employees upset over insurance plan

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(ABC 6 News) – Monday, city of Austin employees from street workers to supervisors were impacted after the city council approved a number of 2023 health insurance memorandum of agreements.

About 54 percent of city employees are enrolled in the city’s insurance plan right now. And if they drop below 50 percent, insurance companies will not even give the city a bid to provide insurance to its workers.

“There’s not one person that’s not affected in this city because of this insurance plan. Our frustration is that they didn’t look into other options that would be better for the employee,” said Tom Schulte.

Tom Schulte, a firefighter with the city of Austin says over the last 3 years there has been about a 12-perfect increase in premiums every year.

But this year, he’s looking at about a 31-percent increase.

Schulte spoke to the council before the vote Monday evening telling them to vote “no.” Saying city employees were given an ultimatum to sign this memorandum of agreement and if they didn’t sign Tom’s insurance premium per month for his family would be over 13 hundred dollars. He says for some, that’s two house payments.

Each of the memorandums passed 5 to 1 with council member Joyce Poshusta being the only one voting nay across the board.

Earlier this year, the city went to its employees saying it was going to switch insurance companies but workers now say their out-of-pocket and premiums have doubled. While the plans themselves have gotten worse.

Employees proposed a plan to the city that would reallocate HSA money back toward premium costs to hopefully entice people to sign up for the city’s insurance plan.

“One of the problems is that we don’t have enough people on our plan to get a competitive price and so we had proposed that to administration and we don’t feel that it was properly brought to council and 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 on their insurance benefits,” Schulte said.

Schulte has been employed by the city of Austin for almost 17 years now.

“When I first started, insurance was affordable, and now it’s becoming a second mortgage,” Schulte explained.

And Tom says he’s not alone.

“It’s kind of a crying shame that it’s at where it’s at today. I would like that you guys address that and correct it, the council,” another city worker said at the meeting.

“They’re my coworkers. It doesn’t matter if they’re not in my department, they’re still my coworkers, and we still have to try to get what’s best for the city,” Schulte adds.