Federation plan aims to reduce health costs

Federation plan aims to reduce health costs

The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County has launched an initiative designed to reduce health care insurance costs for the county’s numerous congregations and other Jewish agencies.

Federation executive director Keith Krivitzky said the shared benefits program launched officially on Feb. 1.

The program includes five different health insurance plans plus two other benefit offerings — a Section 125 cafeteria-style health spending plan and a 401(k) defined-contribution retirement savings program. Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield is the health carrier.

“Once a critical mass of participants is involved — 50 perhaps — the cost of benefits could be reduced by as much as one-third,” Krivitzky estimated.

Marlboro’s Temple Rodeph Torah and the Axelrod Performing Arts Center are the first two participants, and Krivitzky said many other organizations are seriously considering signing up.

An informal survey conducted about a year ago, he said, revealed that synagogue and agency administrators were concerned about rising health insurance rates.

Elise Feldman, a former federation president and owner of Feldman Benefit Services, Inc., in Springfield, led the effort. She said the federation program will ease the financial burden by enabling area synagogues and other Jewish agencies to realize economies of scale and thus extend more generous benefits to staff members.

Before this option became available, she said, “some of the synagogues did not have certain benefit programs, and others found that the premiums and costs were high for a small group. Similar issues were expressed by other Jewish agencies in our community.”

Citing a survey conducted by the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser Family Foundation, Krivitzky said that the average cost for a family health care plan offered by employers in 2012 jumped by 4 percent to $15,745. This was on top of a 9 percent premium jump in 2011. And, he added, some sources, including Mercer, a Marsh & McLennan subsidiary, are warning that a majority of employers face an increase in health-care costs “averaging 8 percent in 2013 if they make no changes to their plans.”

Krivitzky described the shared benefits program as a viable solution for organizations that are too small and have too few covered employees to exert any purchasing power.

Temple Rodeph Torah is an example. Brion Feinberg, the synagogue’s president, said Rabbi Donald Weber is currently the only employee with coverage, and when the congregation went shopping for insurance, not only were rates very high, but it was tough to find a decent policy. Feinberg and the TRT board were quick to see advantages in the federation’s new plan.

The only drawback, he said, was the need to switch payroll processors. “We’re still working on that, but it’s coming along,” he said.

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