Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Club member in public service...

Self Insurance Committee leader steps down
Kane, 90, will remain a member

By Leslie Hutchison (Record-Journal staff)

SOUTHINGTON — Harold Kane figures he de­serves a break from his duties as chairman of the town’s Self Insurance Committee. After all, he’s been in that role for 10 years, and served on the com­mittee for about 25. And he’s 90 years old. Kane’s leadership through the 1980s and ’90s saved the town millions of dollars, ac­cording to his colleagues on the committee. He was instru­mental in making it possible for the town to act as its own insurance agency. Kane said the cost now to be fully insuredwould be an addi­tional $3 million per year. He estimated that the town has saved between $200,000 and severalmillion dollars per year in insurance costs since the ’80s.

Board of Education member Jill Notar-Francesco has served with Kane on the com­mittee for two years. “He’s kind and generous. He’s put a lot of effort into the commu-n­ity,” she said. “He’s saved the town tons of money.” While Kane is stepping down as chairman, he’s not leaving the committee. “When you have a change of leader­ship, you have new ideas, but we’ll have him as a resource,” Notar-Francesco said. “He will be a guiding influence.” Kane decided earlier this month not to accept the chair­manship again. He joked about the reason: “To accept another two years would be quite a feat. I don’t want to go out feet first.”

John P. Moise has served with Kane for two non-consec­utive terms. “He brought in­surance issues to light in town. He is a wealth of knowledge,” Moise said. He said he’s glad Kane is staying on the commit­tee. “Whoever is chair will need his bank of knowledge to move forward.” The town’s employee well­ness program is an initiative Kane helped start in 2008 as a cost-saving measure. He said the committee will soon pres­ent plans to the Town Council for a new program for employ­ees to support healthy choices. “We’re going to offer incen­tives, money,” Kane said.

The town’s health insurance budget has grown from $1 mil­lion when Kane joined the committee in 1983 to about $20 million today. More than 3,000 town employees and their de­pendents are insured by the town, he said. This year’s insurance costs are expected to grow again, from $18 million to $21 million. Kane said 70 percent of that cost is from the Board of Edu­cation. “The BOE is quite con­cerned” about the increase, he said. As health insurance costs continue to gobble up a bigger piece of the budget pie, Kane believes the wellness incen­tives could be a solution. “Obesity is a big problem,” he said. “Smoking has been, but it’s on the decline.”

Kane has studied how other businesses and municipalities have decreased their health in­surance costs. He said a pro­gram by Safeway grocery stores has kept that company’s insurance costs level for four years. “They saved millions,” he said. Poor health is costly because it increases use of health serv­ices. Kane believes if employ­ees exercise and follow health guidelines, the town could see its health insurance costs level off in the next few years. -

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