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City changes retiree benefits, discusses pants

City of Albany Finance Director Kris Newton speaks to the commission Tuesday morning. The city voted to join with United Health Care's Medicare Advantage Program Tuesday after being dropped by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

City of Albany Finance Director Kris Newton speaks to the commission Tuesday morning. The city voted to join with United Health Care's Medicare Advantage Program Tuesday after being dropped by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The city commission voted 6-0 to change Medicare-eligible retiree benefit carriers; Blue Cross/Blue Shield dropped the city after failing to find a health care provider who would agree to serve as their preferred provider, city officials say.

The change only applies to retirees who are Medicare-eligible.

City of Albany Finance Director Kris Newton told the commission that Blue Cross/Blue Shield abruptly notified the city last month that they were switching from an open network to a PPO network and that neither Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital nor Palmyra Medical Centers had agreed to serve in that capacity.

When no carriers could be found, Blue Cross/Blue Shield dropped the city from their plan which put city officials in a rush to find a suitable alternative.

The city will now go with United Healthcare, which they say has comparable rates to the previous plan. Newton said customers will see a $6 per month reduction in their premiums but will also see their out-of-pocket maximum go up from $3,400 per year to $3,600 per year.

The commission also heard from a concerned citizen who spoke against an initiative to make wearing pants that hang below the waste a violation of city ordinances.

Michael Harper told commissioners he believed the commission was overstepping its bounds in developing the ordinance saying that those who choose to undertake the fashion statement were merely rebelling against authority much as did earlier generations by wearing bell-bottomed pants and long hair or afros.

"I do not think that the saggy pants is an indicator of their derogation of society. I think the saggy pants are a symptom of a larger problem," Harper told the commissioners Tuesday.

"If you talk to them, they don't attach the negative value to it that we do; most of them aren't gang members, they're wearing these pants as a fashion statement," he said.

Commissioner Tommie Postell, who has been pushing the ordinance, said he didn't feel as if it were targeting any set group of people -- a comment made in reference to Commissioner Roger Marietta's question referencing the measure as a possible bill of attainder or a law that unfairly targets a specific group of individuals -- saying that it was as much a public health issue as anything else.

"The term saggy pants...it goes deeper than that. That's the title of the ordinance. There are other things that are ingredients to that," Postell said. "...the terminology doesn't bear the whole weight of what we're talking about."

"It needs to be understood...some people think that this isn't some kind of punishment, this is not a racial thing, this is not aimed any particular ethnic group. It's aimed at individuals who violate the law," he said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Christopher Pike is hosting a community-wide discussion about the proposed ordinance Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Law Enforcement Center at the intersection of Oglethorpe Boulevard and Washington Street.