City Manager Mike Wildgen has prescribed a $30,000-a-year city nurse in his proposed 1993 budget to bring down recent swelling in city health insurance costs.
"We are up considerably this year from where we were last year," Wildgen told city commissioners last week. "We've got to try to do something, and this is worth at least one year of trying."
The nurse would help diagnose and treat health problems and promote good health practices for city employees, as well as coordinate the city's workers compensation program.
"We think by having someone in-house who can go around to the different departments and work on the wellness programs and work with people who are sick slightly and just need some help . . . we think it can effectively pay for itself," Wildgen said.
Wilgen estimates that the position would run about $30,000. Funds for the position would come out of the city's employee benefits fund, fueled mostly by property taxes.
CITY EMPLOYEES have been insured by the city since 1990.
"It gives us more control of some of the costs," said Wildgen.
The city covers the premium for full-time employees, and most of the premium for an employee and family. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas administers the program, and the city pays for claims.
The cost of claims in the first 27 weeks of 1992 has jumped $213,660 from the same point last year, from $744,885 to $958,546, said Karen DeGasperi, city personnel specialist.
An industrial health nurse could help curb the increasing costs, Wildgen said. The city would hire someone for the position, or contract for the nurse's services from a family practice center.
Among other duties, the nurse would monitor bills from doctors and hospitals to make sure the city is charged correctly. The nurse also could give a second opinion on an employee's condition, if a physician suggested surgery or extensive tests.
THE NURSE also could help coordinate the city's workers compensation program and work with CHAMP, the city's in-house wellness program, designed to promote exercise and good health habits.
However, the nurse won't be able to single-handedly deal with the city's health care crisis, DeGasperi said. Other measures must be taken.
"There's a possibility that the employees will start paying for some health insurance, and also maybe increasing the cost of family health insurance," she said.
"But that's something we don't want to do. There are a lot of things that we've talked about," she said. City officials should make a decision in September on lowering costs.
Officials are not certain yet the cause of the increasing costs.
"I know we've had a few significant things happen, like a few heart attacks, but you're just kind of guessing at this point," she said.
DeGasperi said city officials have asked for a breakdown of the claims from Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
City commissioners have the final say on spending. They will begin hashing over Wildgen's 1993 budget proposal, which totals $45,304,759, at a study session set for 3 p.m. today.