Blackfoot may join insurance consortium

BLACKFOOT — The City of Blackfoot intends to join an independent medical insurance cooperative among Idaho cities in an effort to control costs and rate increases.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to sign a three-year joint powers agreement with the Idaho Independent Intergovernmental Authority, a cooperative of numerous Idaho cities to create a self-funded medical insurance program. The council members will take the next week to review additional information about the program, and if there are no objections from the councilmen the agreement will be signed Aug. 10 by Mayor Mike Virtue.
American Falls Mayor Amy Wynn is vice chair of the III-A and presented information on the cooperative to the council Tuesday.
Wynn said annual insurance increases have prompted the effort to create a self-funded insurance program for cities to minimize annual increases.
"It's getting to the point where we as cities can't afford it," Wynn said. Annual increases are projected to be 3-5 percent with the cooperative, while some cities have paid as much as 15 percent in annual increases from for-profit insurance companies.
As of Tuesday night, 28 cities with 525 employees had joined the cooperative. The City of Blackfoot will add another 100 employees, and several more cities plan to vote on the plan this week.
Cities are asked to pay $9.06 per employee for start-up costs associated with attorney, consultant and actuary costs. Premiums paid the first year will match the city's negotiated cost through Blue Cross or Blue Shield. Virtue said the council will determine the benefit package for city employees and the change should not affect benefits.
Councilman Chris Jensen said insurance costs have increased substantially over the past three years and eventually the city will not be able to sustain increases without raising taxes. He supported joining the cooperative as a way to manage increasing costs.