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Amherst employees to get health insurance premium holiday

Town Manager John Musante recently announced that municipal workers will receive what is known as a health insurance premium holiday this month, which means they will not have payments for their health insurance withdrawn from their paychecks.

At the same time, the town and the elementary school will each save about $285,000 as a result of not having to cover their 75 to 80 percent share of these premiums, Musante said.

Pelham, which is also a participant in the Amherst Pelham Health Claims Trust, will also benefit from this premium holiday.

Musante, who serves as the trust administrator, said the towns and schools are getting the premium holiday because subscribers’ recent claims experience beat the trends. That means there is enough money built up in the health trust to allow the premium holiday.

“We’ve recovered nicely from the troubles of five to six years ago,” Musante said.

A similar health insurance premium holiday was last offered in May 2009.

The amounts employees will see in their paychecks range from the $160 for those on the HMO single plan to $350 for those using the PPO family plan.

The holiday comes during the second year in a row that there are no increases in insurance premiums for employees, as compared to a nearly 10 percent industry-wide trend in health insurance premiums.

The municipal budget includes a $2.72 million appropriation for health insurance, which is about level funded.

There has been a proactive multi-year effort based on recommendations from the Insurance Advisory Committee that has included eliminating the indemnity plan, adding HMOS and lower-cost Canadian prescription drugs, increasing employee contributions and increasing premiums.

Musante said plans are offered through Blue Cross Blue Shield and Harvard Pilgrim.

Last year, retired teachers were brought back to the local group health insurance from the state’s Group Insurance Commission.

Members of the town’s Personnel Board in February wondered if lowering the premiums made more sense than offering a one-month holiday, but Musante told them that approach was more risky.

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