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Southold, Riverhead may join Suffolk plan to save on health costs

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell is interested in

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell is interested in joining Suffolk County's health insurance program to save on health-related coverage for town workers. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Town supervisors in Riverhead and Southold are considering enrolling in Suffolk County’s health insurance program to help save thousands of dollars annually on employees’ medical coverage.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the town’s year-over-year medical costs rose 6.8 percent, from $6,324,000 in 2016 to $6,759,200 this year. The town insures 166 employees, mostly under family plans. The town’s contribution is $46,400 per plan.

Russell said the town could save more than $700,000 a year by joining the county’s program, savings over the long-term that he said would be significant.

“That’s serious money in a small budget,” he said.

Russell said he recently talked with Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter about the two towns partnering to join the county program. Officials in both towns are reaching out to representatives at the county and state level on the matter, according to Southold and Riverhead officials.

Walter could not be reached for comment.

Riverhead Town Councilman Tim Hubbard said he supports the effort, noting that the town’s medical insurance costs exceed $28,000 annually per town employee for family plans.

“To me, it’s an awful lot of money, and it keeps going up and up and up, and there’s got to be a cutoff point somewhere,” Hubbard said, referring to annual increases in insurance costs. “Municipalities, whoever provides health insurance for their workers, can’t keep absorbing these increases. If there is a way to provide an equal amount of coverage for less dollars, that’s what needs to be looked into, and that’s what we’re doing.”

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