Friday, December 31, 2004

Important Info Regarding the LEOFF Trust Health Insurance Plan

December 30, 2004

Dear LEOFF Trust Member:

The Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters Health & Welfare Trust (LEOFF Trust) previously notified you of its plan to convert the Health Insurance benefits offered to Leoff trust members from Premera Blue Cross to the First Choice Health Network. This conversion was to be coincident with a switch from Premera’s contract plan to a self-insured plan through the Leoff Trust, with reinsurance provided through Symetra Financial. The conversion was scheduled for January 1, 2005.

During the conversion process however, the City of Spokane raised certain issues that the LEOFF Trust feels cannot be addressed in the time frame currently available. Therefore, the LEOFF Trust has no choice but to delay implementation of the self-insured plan for active Spokane Fire Fighters.

Please be advised that the forgoing delay in implementation of the First Choice coverage will not result in any lapse of coverage for you or your family members who were previously insured with Premera. The LEOFF Trust has received a commitment from Premera to renew the coverage that was in place last year. The premiums from Premera will be adjusted and billed to the City. It is still the intent of the LEOFF Trust to convert from Premera Blue Cross to the First Choice self-insurance plan at the earliest possible date.

Many of you have already received your First Choice Network provider cards. Although those cards cannot be used at this time, you should retain those cards for future use. If you have not already destroyed your existing Premera card, please retain that card as well to be used until further notice. If you no longer have a Premera card, please contact Jenny Stevens at 509-484-5598 and a new card will be obtained for you.

The LEOFF Trust and Local 29 are taking action to resolve this situation with the City of Spokane and will notify all members of the LEOFF Trust as soon as information becomes available.

Please be assured that we, the LEOFF Trust and Local 29 are working hard to see that the conversion to First Choice through a self-insured plan is implemented as soon as possible.


Greg Borg
President, Local 29 IAFF

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Apologies to retirees

I have been sick over the last few weeks and have missed some of your retirement parties. I am sorry if I missed yours. Thank you for your participation in the union and your efforts as a City Firefighter. We are proud of you and will miss all of you. Local 29 wish you well.
Greg Borg

Notice to all being laid off:

If you are being laid off you please call Glenn Kiby at Civil Service 625-6160. If you would like to apply for another city job it can benefit you in several ways. If you are hired in another city department you have to take a voluntary demotion, but when you are hired by the other department you are on an unlimited laid off list for the fire department. You also get preference during the hiring process. It would be a job with full benefits while you wait to be recalled. So call Glenn and tell him you are a laid off firefighter. He can give you the details and tell you what openings there are. Good luck.

$1,000,000 interest-free union member loan to city rejected...

Brothers and Sisters,

Final news on the back paychecks! Mayor West has rejected our offer of $1,000,000 to save 12 to 14 jobs. He said he has a commitment to only using only renewable funds to pay for salaries. He also said he has no way to assure the replacement million dollars in January 2006 to pay use back. He thanked us for the offer but had to reject it.

With that decision and the Mayors rejection of money from our LEOFF I Pension fund, it brings to an end any solutions we have to save any more jobs. Thank you for your generous vote on the issue.

The back paychecks will be distributed in late January or early February, as soon as the city can get it done.

Fraternally, Greg Borg


Just when you think things around here can't get any worse, we havereached a new level of bungling in our EMS system.  For the past couple years, every 911 patient transport has been billed at the higher ALS rate.  Yep, even a simple BLS transport for constipation has been billed at the higher ALS rate.

 Even if all the ALS work is done by the Spokane Fire Department, the patient is still billed for ALS by the ambulance company.  Furthermore, 60% of the patient transports were suppose to be billed at the lower BLS rate.  Since they are now billed at the higher ALS rate it means an extra $700,000.00 dollars per year for AMR!  And consequently, the people that we are supposed to protect - are forced to pay for something that they are not receiving.

 It's like ordering basic cable service (BLS) and receiving basic cable service - but people are being forced to pay for deluxe cable service (ALS).  The really reprehensible aspect of this, we provide most of the ALS care at no expense to the patient.

 EMS is 80% of what we do and nobody I've talked to in Spokane knows anything about this billing practice .  You would think with the EMS levy just barely passing, we would take EMS issues around here more seriously.   AMR billing in Seattle was contacted and they confirmed this billing practice - it's called ALS Emergency Mandated.

There may be a ray of hope out of this mess.  People have been charged for ALS when the SFD Paramedic accompanies the patient to the care facility.  This is a prohibited charge under the contract.  Just guess how many times a year our Medics ride-in where the fine can be as high as $5,000.00 dollars for each violation.  The penalties could be in the millions, but our Chief has to make the effort to fine the ambulance company.  

The down side of this is how public perception about SFD EMS might change.  In the future people may think EMS stands for Emergency Medical Scandal. Fundamental reform and investigation about this matter is warranted.

 Happy New Year!

Bill Jackman