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Schenectady County trims health care costs

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, announced last week that Schenectady County's retiree healthcare benefits costs were reduced by $1.3 million through the county's reform of retiree health-care benefits, which were negotiated with various unions in 2008.

[Schenectady County Legislator] Judy Dagostino [D-Rotterdam] and I meet every year with the various municipalities, going over the various things we're doing with health insurance, and we've been pushing this program forward with them, said Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner.

He said that Niskayuna and Scotia are participating in the Medicare Advantage plan, and they're hoping the City of Schenectady will start participating soon, too. He said they are also starting to reach out to some of the school districts.

Savage said the move has saved the county a considerable amount of money.

"Our most recent achievement is the negotiation and implementation of Medicare Advantage Plans for all of our Medicare-eligible retirees. This reform reduces the taxpayers' cost for retiree health-care benefits by $1,300,540 for 2009, a 79.17 percent reduction from our 2008 expenditure levels," said Savage.

Gardner said he believes the new program is not only cheaper than the last one, but better.

"There are no deductibles on the co-pays for the MVP plan and the CPHP plan," said Gardner. "It's just a matter of taking advantage of the new products that are out there."

According to Gardner, 655 retirees switched from the Matrix health plan to Empire MAP, resulting in a $1,099,063.80 savings. Forty-two retirees switched from MVP to MVP MAP, resulting in a $145,454.40, and 14 retirees switched to CDPHP MAP for a savings of $56,021.76. The total savings was $1,300,539.96.

"As chair of the Labor and Civil Service committee, I am constantly reviewing methods to reduce health-care costs and, in this instance, we succeeded in saving taxpayers over $1.3 million," said Dagostino. "What is truly remarkable is that while saving taxpayers money, retiree health-care benefits actually improved with lower co-pays and lower deductibles. That is because Medicare Advantage Plans are heavily funded by the federal government. This reform is a new way of doing business, and a better way of doing business."

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