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Officers to chip in for insurance deductibles

By Kevin O’Brien

Colby-Abbotsford police officers will have to start paying part of their health insurance deductibles as part of a plan approved Monday to stave off a 13 percent hike in premiums next year.

The joint police commission was forced to raise deductibles by $500 for single plans and $1,000 for families after police chief Jason Bauer said renewing the current plan would have cost an additional $14,440 next year.

Deductibles are currently $2,500 for a single plan and $5,000 for a family. In order to keep those the same in 2020, the police department and its officers would have had to pay 13 percent more in premiums.

Instead, the commission chose a plan with deductibles of $3,000 for singles and $6,000 for families, which came with a premium increase of 3.9 percent. This was more in line with the 4 percent hike Bauer included in his 2020 budget, which has already been approved by both cities.

However, since the department has always paid the entire deductible for each officer, those deductible increases could end up costing taxpayers more.

Abbotsford Mayor Lori Voss suggested that each officer be responsible for the first $500 of a single plan deductible and the first $1,000 for a family plan.

Voss said she’s a big supporter of law enforcement and police officers, but the days of employees paying no deductibles are “long gone.”

“We can’t keep passing it onto taxpayers, not health insurance,” she said.

This touched off a discussion about how the Colby-Abbotsford Police Department compares to other departments in the area when it comes to wages and benefi ts.

Officer Nathan Schreiber, head of the local police union, said most officers at other departments only pay 10 percent of their premiums, while CAPD officers pay 20 percent. At the same time, he said most other law enforcement agencies in the area are either significantly smaller or much larger than the CAPD.

“It’s hard to compare us to other departments around here,” he said.

The idea of switching insurance providers was also raised at Monday’s meeting. Bauer said the department can start looking at joining an insurance co-op in July of next year, but it will need to apply and get accepted.

However, Bauer and Schreiber said offi cers may be reluctant to switch plans if it involves leaving their union, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. They said the union’s focus on representing law enforcement is helpful when offi cers are involved in use-of-force incidents.

A total of $127,314 was included in this year’s budget to cover 80 percent of the premiums and 100 percent of the deductibles for the six officers on the insurance plan. Next year’s budget includes $136,650 in the same line item, an increase of over $9,000 from this year, or 7 percent.

The commission was able to save some money on premiums this year by voting at the end of 2018 to increase deductibles, but insurance costs continue to go up thousands of dollars each year.

“Insurance is going to keep biting us in the butt until we do something,” said Abbotsford Ald. Brent Faber.

Eventually, the commission voted to require officers to pay the first $250 of a single plan deductible and the first $500 for a family plan deductible. The department will pay the remaining amount, which would be $2,750 for a single and $5,500 for a family.

Other business

_ The commission voted to renew dental insurance through Delta Dental, at a cost of $41.59 per month for each officer, with the department paying 85 percent of the premium. The rates stayed the same.

_ The department’s K-9 was deployed 15 times in October, resulting in six arrests.

_ Bauer said the school resource officer’s vehicle has about $3,000 of needed repairs, but at the same time, the department has received a $5,000 check as reimbursement for the SRO’s mileage to and from police academy in Chippewa Falls.

_ The commission approved $19,605 in monthly bills.