INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 8, 2014)-- The Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union and Fraternal Order of Police have filed lawsuits against the City of Indianapolis. The lawsuits stem from proposed changes to their health care plans, and union leaders are accusing the city of violating current contracts.
The changes, slated to take effect in 2015, would apply to all city employees.
Union leaders received a letter informing them of the changes. The president of Firefighters Local 416 said the city wants to get rid of the current Advantage HMO plan and offer HSA plans (health savings account). He believes the plans would force employees to pay a high deductible.
Mayor Greg Ballard's spokesperson said he does not comment on pending litigation and would not talk about the specifics of the suits, but said the consumer driven healthcare model has been adopted by cities and states across the country in an effort to battle rising healthcare costs.
"Healthcare costs are going up for everyone and premiums are going up on an annual basis for everyone," says Ballard's communications director, Marc Lotter. "This is something the state did years ago in going to the consumer driven healthcare model. It actually keeps premiums lower for employees.
FOX59 has obtained a copy of a letter the city sent to union leaders on Sept. 2. The letter from City Controller Jason Dudich states, "maintaining the current model is not suitable for the city because budgets are tight." The letter describes a three-tiered HSA plan that will be available to employees. It said each employee will have their own health savings account. The city will contribute funds and employees can make pre-tax contributions. Employees can earn more city contributions through wellness programs and exams.
Lotter says the changes also come with the addition of several clinic location options for employees.
"It's really better long term for the employee, because there is greater emphasis on wellness," he says. "We'll have clinics set up across the city where they can go for low-cost or even no-cost medical service or prescription drugs, things that they don't take advantage of now."
The Fire Union recently negotiated a new contract in 2013. Union leaders said they bargained in good faith and agreed to push pay raises back six months. They said the city never brought up the possibility of eliminating the current HMO.
Civil suits were filed August 28th by both unions. A section of the firefighters union suit says:
"It is LOCAL 416's contention that the City's decision to alter the health insurance benefits for City firefighters after the parties executed a two (2) year contract extension, especially where there were no expected health insurance changes for that time period, violates the parties' contractual agreement."