City council approves funding for counseling services for employ - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

City council approves funding for counseling services for employees considering transgender surgery

Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD
Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD) Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope (Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD)

The Lubbock City Council has voted unanimously to add additional insurance coverage for employees who require counseling for transgender surgical services. The vote left council members questioning whether they had been forced by federal law to write a blank check.

The discussion and vote came from an obscure item on the Consent Agenda related to the city's responsibility "to follow certain portions of the Affordable Care Act." Councilwoman Latrelle Joy asked that the item be pulled from the Consent Agenda and discussed by the council. Consent Agenda items are voted on as a group and not discussed individually. 

Director of Human Resources Leisa Hutcheson told the city council that the coverage for counseling services for an employee who wanted transgender surgery. The coverage was required, Hutcheson said, as one of the provisions of "Obamacare."

"The city receives Health and Human Services funds in several ways. Because of this we are required to add this coverage," Hutcheson said.

Hutcheson also told the city council that even without the Health and Human Services funding the EEOC would probably require the coverage.

Several council members questioned Hutcheson about the fiscal impact of adding this coverage to the employee health plan.

"We do not know the cost at this time," Hutcheson said.

The vote was 7-0 however, recognizing his own and other council members' reservations about the dilemma presented them, Mayor Dan Pope observed that the vote was hardly enthusiastic.

Pope said that the funds the city receives from Health and Human Services help some of the poorest among Lubbock citizens.

"We've been painted into a corner because the best things to do for our city is to accept those funds. Many of our citizens and groups in our community that do good things count on those funds. But to accept those funds we've got to follow federal laws and some of those laws don't smell or taste very good to us," said Pope.

The plan approved tonight is for expanded coverage of counseling services for those requiring transgender surgical services. The surgery would be approved by Blue Cross Blue Shield based upon medical need, according to Mayor Pope.

The council approved an additional expenditure of $786,000 annually for stop loss insurance to pay claims in excess of $350,000 for any individual covered by the city's health policy.

The council also voted 7-0 to approve $356,683 for transplant insurance coverage. The supplemental plan would pay 100% of an employee's transplant costs for the first year.

Mayor Dan Pope told KCBD the city of Lubbock pays $30 million annually for health insurance and that the costs must be addressed.

"You can't run a business this way," said Pope.

New Emergency Operations Center

The council also approved a new Emergency Operations Center at a cost of $6.8 million dollars. Lee Lewis Construction won the bid.

This contract is for the construction of a 15,766 square foot Emergency Operations Center (EOC) located at 1515 East Ursuline.

Original specifications say: The EOC must be of sufficient size and construction (hardened) to accommodate a full and sustained activation of the City’s Emergency Management Program during catastrophic events. A full and sustained activation for a catastrophic event requires sufficient size, layout, and technology to accommodate 100 people. Minimal EOC staffing would require sufficient space for 45 people.

Monsanto Investment Zone

The council also approved 7-0 a motion designating as an investment zone the property deeded to Monsanto by Lubbock Economic Development Association. Representatives from Monsanto appeared before the council to support the designation. They assured they council that Monsanto would be involved in giving back to its community by giving both money and time. This designation is one of a number of steps involved in giving tax Monsanto a property tax abatement.

Citizens Tower construction

Council also voted to terminated its construction management contract with Vanir Construction Management Inc. for Citizens Tower.

Mayor Pope says the council felt there was a better way to proceed. Pope says this will not affect the construction schedule on Citizens Tower.

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