News 12 at 6 o'clock, October 3, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---The city of Augusta is looking to rework its contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, it's health care provider. But that could leave workers shelling out big bucks.
"Oh, I was sick to my stomach," says Cindy Washington. Cindy says she was shocked after learning she might have to pay more at her next doctor's visit because the city is planning to renew its contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield at a higher rate.
Cindy questions, "How can we actually afford to pay this high high insurance rate? It's unfair due to the fact that there are so many people out here, and based on our salaries it really will cause a tremendous financial burden."
This impacts 6,500 employees. Co-pays would increase from $30 to $50. Visits to a specialist would increase from $50 to $80. And visits to the emergency room would increase from $200 to $300. These are all numbers employees say they just can't afford.
Cheryl Barnes says, "I'm a mother of seven children. Trying to go to the doctor and get prescriptions or anything like that, it would take my whole paycheck."
It's that scary reality that has people like Cheryl filing a petition, which at time of writing had over 300 signatures.
Cheryl says, "I'm not asking them to re-do everything. I'm just asking them to look and see if they can't help us in some way."
City Administrator Fred Russell says, "It becomes a philosophical question at this point...who has to pay? Bottom line, the best deal that we think we can get is with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. We've explored other options and this is a good deal."
But some city leaders say there is better. Commissioner Joe Bowles says, "They are our employees and they work very hard, and we need to make sure we take care of them, and I think we can manage to get the co-pays down."