MONTCLAIR, NJ - Discussions about the renewal of health benefits for employees of the township was the focus of Tuesday’s Council Conference Meeting. 

Representatives for the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance agency were in attendance to present a new health plan that would help reduce some costs and improve benefits for employees of the municipality.  Horizon’s new plan, called OMNIA Health Plans, allows members of the State Health Benefits Plan to see health care professionals within the OMNIA network in state and out of state.  This is under their Managed Care “Tier 2” coverage plan, while the lowest costs and deductibles will come from seeing health care professionals and establishments who are a part of the Tier 1 coverage plan. 

To receive benefits, those under SHBP must visit those under the plan, as the plan does not include out-of-network benefits.  A Horizon representative said their goal is to get around 250,000 people to be a part of the Omnia plan.

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Deputy Mayor Robert Russo was lukewarm towards the plan, expressing concern about people potentially having to change physicians to benefit.  “The thing is now there is a possible alternative, but it is disruptive for us as employers, and employees, too,” he said.  Russo also was unsure about savings, in which a Horizon rep said that they would definitely save for the first year of the plan at least. 

Councilwoman Renee Baskerville expressed similar concerns about the continuity of the care and providers.  “I would prefer to have something here that is not going to disrupt the physicians they’re seeing,” she said.  Horizon representatives pointed out that the Omnia plan may not be best for those who want to stick to their own doctors, where a Direct Access plan – also provided by Horizon - may be a better fit. 

In closing, Horizon said that they are “singularly focused on the public sector employee and employer so that they can get the best benefits with the lowest costs.”  While the Mayor Robert Jackson, Russo, and the Town Council elected to go with the plan provided, Jackson pointed out that they have the ability to go back to a state plan if they found it more attractive for whatever reason in the future.

All resolutions were passed by the council.  These included a lease to acquire an Aerial Latter apparatus, the authorization for Verizon to use erected poles, and an awarded contract for cleaning services.  More information on each resolution can be found here.

Township Manager Timothy Stafford then gave a report that focused on discussion for next week’s council meeting agenda items.  These items included an ordinance to establish bus stops on Orange Road and Elm Street.  Another was a resolution to execute a contract with HomeCorp to help serve people who want to purchase and rent in the township, or might be facing problems keeping their home. 

Additionally, a resolution authorizing an agreement between the US Food and Drug Administration and the Township at the cost of $15,096.97 will be discussed at next week’s meeting.  According to Stafford, the money “represents funding to upgrade the Retail Food Software program and for two new tablet computers used for food inspections.”  Also, two ordinances that were snow oriented.  One was the requirement that home owners and tenants remove from ramps that get accessed at crosswalks.  Another gives authority in management ability to waive fees and prohibitions for particular parking spots to give residents more places to park in case of roadways being covered by snow.

Lastly, an ordinance was brought up by Township Attorney Ira Karasick that focused on addressing issues of pay discrepancy between genders for services done.

A regular Township Council meeting is scheduled for January 19 at 7 pm.  Residents are encouraged to attend.