Southampton Mayor pitches health insurance collective

Health insurance costs are expected to increase 13 percent next year for municipalities that cover their employees through the New York State Health Insurance Plan, and the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association wants to fight back.

The group wants to hire the firm Cook, Hall & Hyde to study the feasibility of a health insurance collective that would self-insure governments on the East End, allowing them to pool both the costs and risks of health care. But first, the East End towns and villages have to agree to fund the $70,000 study.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, who works in the health care field and has been pushing for the collective, pitched it to the Southold Town Board Tuesday morning, on behalf of the association. Mr. Epley is asking each East End town to contribute $8,750 and each village to contribute $4,325.

“We have to do something today. It’s running away at an unsustainable rate,” said Mr. Epley of municipal health insurance costs.

Scott Bradley, of Cook, Hall & Hyde, told the board that 13 municipalities in Tompkins County, New York, had formed a health insurance collective that they estimate will save them $900,000 in the first year.

Mr. Epley said the area’s three hospitals are working to streamline costs in a way that would benefit a regional insurance collective. Jane Franz, board member of East End Health Alliance, a partnership of the area’s three hospitals, told the Town Board that the hospitals are implementing new information technology that will allow them to aggregate data and give physicians fast feedback on whether they are following best practices.

Mr. Epley said that this new technology is crucial to keeping costs down because it will allow the hospitals to both provide the best and most efficient types of care and detect health problems early.

“A large share of the costs are chronic care and are managed essentially in our community,” he said.

Town Board members did not indicate whether they were interested in the proposal.

“We’ll have a good discussion at the board level and talk about what our next step might be,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell.

Deer Deterrent

The Southold Town Police force is tired of paying for body work on police cars that have been damaged in collisions with deer. This week, the Town Board voted to pay $15,624 to retrofit police vehicles with crash bars that would help protect them if they strike a deer.

On another front involving the town’s deer population, it was reported at Tuesday’s meeting that 125 deer have been brought by hunters to a refrigerated truck behind the rec center in Peconic, with two weeks still to go before the close of the bowhunting season. The deer are butchered and the meat distributed to food pantries throughout Long Island.

Deputy Department of Public Works director Jeff Standish said that many hunters brought in deer early in the season, which began Nov. 1, but that he is hearing now that there are not as many deer in the woods. Though the season ends Dec. 31, hunters have only until Dec. 29 to bring deer to the refrigerated truck, after which it will be removed, he said.

Town to Govern Dogs

New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Markets has abdicated its role as the issuer of dog licenses and is requiring towns to take over responsibility in 2011. The town clerk currently supplies forms to apply for a state dog license but doesn’t issue licenses itself or retain fees for them. A public hearing will be held Jan. 4 on the town’s plan to have the town clerk’s office issue the licenses, which are slated to cost $10.

[email protected]