Medford Township to switch back to state-funded health program

After two years of enrolling its employees in self-funded health care, Medford Township is switching gears and moving back to the state health benefits program.

Council passed a resolution authorizing the township to enroll in the state program. The township will officially switch programs on April 1.

The change was made after interim township manager Katherine Burger said the township’s self-funded health broker, Hardenbergh Insurance Group, presented a large increase in premiums for 2015.

“The renewal was significantly higher,” Burger said. “Our recommendation is we enter back into the state program.”

Burger said a full-year with the self-funded health program would cost the township a little more than $3.5 million. A full-year in the state program would only cost a little more than $2.7 million. The switch to the state program means the township will save approximately $800,000 in health-care costs.

Burger noted the township has looked to keep health-care cost low to keep the budget under control the last few years. This includes health-care concessions in recent contract negotiations.

“We’ve made some strides with contracts where employees are contributing more,” Burger said.

For employees, there will not be a large difference in their coverage. Burger said the copays in the state program and self-funded are the same.

“The state has talked about raising their copays, but it hasn’t happened yet,” she said.

The township originally left the state program for self-funded health care because the state program has high premiums. Burger said the state program would have cost the township less than self-funded in 2014 as well, but the township opted to not make the switch so soon.

“We wanted to take one more year’s chance to see if it would level off,” she said. “It just didn’t happen.”

There is a 75-day advance notice the township needs to give the state before it is officially enrolled in the program, meaning the township will operate under self-funded health-care program for the next three months.

Public works update

With Medford seeing its first snowfall on Tuesday, members of council were curious about when the township’s brine system would be operational.

Burger said the final part for the machine used to make the brine was recently delivered, meaning the system will be operational very soon.

“We have two trucks being sent to the contractor for the spreading units to be installed,” she said.

One project the snowfall did slow down was leaf collection. Burger said crews had just finished collecting in zone five and had moved onto zone one. However, the snow meant crews would not be able to pick up leaves for at least one full day.

The township is hoping to have leaf collection completed prior to February, though Burger said it would depend on how the weather holds up in the coming weeks.

Property maintenance ordinances

Councilman Chris Buoni noted during the meeting the township is looking to create more detailed guidelines regarding property maintenance in the coming months.

“We don’t presently have a clear ordinance in property maintenance,” he said. “Right now, the zoning officer is somewhat limited in what she can do.”

The township has standards for property maintenance for abandoned and foreclosed properties, but not occupied homes. Buoni said the township will take a closer look at the topic after it makes a decision on deer netting in the coming months.