Local Municipalities, School Districts Plan for a Health Care Solution

Municipalities in the area are looking into a way to cut the cost of health insurance coverage and saving taxpayers some money.

The idea surfaced after a meeting last week.

Marathon County Administrator Brad Karger said health insurance costs for public employees have jumped from $300 to $1,300 in the last 25 years.

However, they think they've found a solution that will make both public employees and taxpayers happy.

These people are local leaders, but they're also people like you who pay taxes.

That's why the local municipalities and school districts are looking at a plan to unite under one health care insurance company for the public employees, a bill that taxpayers pick up.

"We did a poll in the room (at the meeting), and the room spent $50 million on employee health care," Karger said. "So we do have a significant purchasing power."

The Wausau and D.C. Everest School Districts and Mosinee, Wausau, Weston, Rib Mountain and Schofield municipalities are some parties that showed interest.

"We're stewards of tax payers money," Wausau Mary Jim Tipple said. "We need to have the highest services for the low possible costs. As revenues go down and expenses go up, health care is a big expense for the city of Wausau."

By pulling together, they believe they'll be able to buy a better insurance at a lower price for taxpayers to pay, hopefully starting by January 2015.

Tipple said Wausau taxpayers are expected to spend $5 million for health care in 2014's budget.

"If we didn't do it (go with one insurance company), there'd be a continued erosion of our public services," Karger said. "If we don't find ways to make better use of the dollars we've been allocated, it's going to come out on the service end."

D.C. Everest school district is a big player in the plan.
It employs more than a thousand people.

D.C. Everest School District Superintendent Kristine Gilmore said this plan is important for the kids in the long run too.

"It's always a balance and a struggle because you want to attract high quality employees," Gilmore said. "They look for benefits and pay."

In the long run, Karger said this plan could save our people a couple million dollars, but they need the large municipalities and districts on board for more power.

Last week's meeting was only the preliminary planning meeting. If they get more interest, Tipple said they'll have another meeting in the next month.

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