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3,200 sign up with Youngstown health department to receive Phase 1B vaccine

Health Commissioner Erin Bishop told City Council on Wednesday her department is working as quickly as possible to contact people who registered: “We just ask for people’s patience."
Youngstown City HallNEW
(Photo by William D. Lewis | Mahoning Matters)

YOUNGSTOWN — Health Commissioner Erin Bishop told City Council that about 3,200 people signed up on the health department’s website to receive the vaccine in Phase 1B, which includes those age 65 and older.

Also included in the Phase 1B category are employees of K-12 schools and those living with severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorders. A full list of Phase 1B timing is available on the Ohio Department of Health's website

At Wednesday's meeting, Bishop said the Youngstown City Health District worked over the weekend to make appointments for those who registered on the department's website. 

Bishop said the department is working as quickly as possible to contact people who registered. 

“We just ask for people’s patience,” Bishop said. “We try to get back to them as soon as possible.”

Many people have canceled appointments to receive the vaccine from the health department since they have been able to schedule an appointment with Mercy Health, Giant Eagle or Mahoning County Public Health, she said.

“[The department is] trying to keep it all in order and making sure that people [who] need vaccinated are getting vaccinated,” Bishop said. 

The health department is expected to receive 500 doses each week to continue to administer the first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine. A shipment of 500 vaccines will arrive every Tuesday and have to be administered within seven days. 

Bishop said the department will administer coronavirus vaccines at the Eugenia Atkinson Recreation Center, 903 Otis St. 

The department was able to start vaccinating people 80 and older as of this week. The department administered about 25 vaccines on Tuesday and 60 vaccines on Wednesday. The department plans to administer 225 vaccines today and 175 on Friday. The remainder of the vaccines will be given on Saturday. 

Next week, the department will continue vaccinating home health care agencies and begin administering second doses to those that received the vaccine at the end of December. The group includes Youngstown Fire Department firefighters, American Medical EMS employees and residents and caregivers in congregate care facilities

More than 800 people were vaccinated during Phase 1A by the Youngstown City Health District, Bishop said, without incident.

Councilman Jimmy Hughes, 2nd ward, asked Bishop when law enforcement would be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Bishop said the department is following the phases set by Gov. Mike DeWine for vaccinations. 

Bishop said there can be confusion since 19 YFD firefighters received the vaccine, but they are also trained in EMS. 

"It's not that we don't want to do first responders in police and fire," Bishop said. "It's just that until we are told by the governor that we can do that, we can't."

CHANGE IN INSURANCE

City council approved the city’s medical insurance from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to UnitedHealthcare for about 650 city employees.

Interim Director of Finance Kyle Miasek said he anticipates the change will save the city money but will not know the amount until after a year with UnitedHealthcare.

The coverage is nearly identical compared with Anthem, Interim Director of Finance Kyle Miasek said. He said there is only a small chance that employees will be impacted as some doctors who are available under the Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield contract might be considered out-of-network for UnitedHealthcare.

The insurance is a self-insured health care plan for employees from February 2021 to January 2022. The cost of the contract is $950,000. The rate per employee per month is $132.37.

Miasek said the city compared the pricing of three companies: Anthem, UnitedHealthcare and Medical Mutual.

“It definitely was in our best interest to move, for the first time in probably two decades, away from Anthem,” Miasek said. 

Miasek said he is confident the city will have savings at the end of the year based on three changes. 

By being self-insured, the city is not required to pay the state of Ohio’s insurance premium tax, which is 1.4 percent of the city’s total premiums. Also, any pharmacy rebates that drug companies pay for insured employees will be paid to the city through a third-party administrator, which will reduce what the city is charged. 

“I’m confident that the combination of medical and pharmacy will be less than what [the city] currently pays to anthem and premiums on top of it,” Miasek said. 

Anthem’s out-of-pocket claims costs were about 10 percent higher than what UnitedHealthcare offered. 

The city has to pay UnitedHealthcare $18.42 each month for the administration rate for each city employee, which is about $144,000 in total for a year, Miasek said. United Healthcare agreed to include a $100,000 first-year implementation credit that will be paid to the city before the end of 2021, reducing that cost to the city to about $44,000 for the first year. 

“We are one of the last area communities to go self-insured,” Miasek said, explaining that a set aside reserve fund will belong to the city now, not the insurance company. 

Miasek said that is the reason why most large employers in Trumbull and Mahoning counties are self-insured.

Miasek said the city’s demographic now is younger and healthier than it was in the early 2000s.

“It made sense to move over in a year that hopefully our claim costs will be lower, and [the city] can build a reserve,” Miasek said. 

OTHER ORDINANCES PASSED:

  • City council approved the $347,503 purchase of a new sanitation truck. Blight Remediation and Code Enforcement Superintendent Mike Durkin said the department currently has nine trucks that are similar in age and usage. He wants to stagger the replacement of the trucks so the department does not have these problems on a regular basis.
  • City council approved a $30,000 contract with PeopleReady, a company that provides temporary labor in the environmental waste collection division. Durkin said employees from PeopleReady are used when employees take sick time or vacation. The contract is $10,000 less than the previous year. 
  • Members approve a purchase order to not exceed $65,000 to Powerplan, a company used to service demolition equipment. The company provides excavating equipment, which is costly for the equipment and maintenance, Durkin said. 
  • The contract renewal for Julie Orto, crime analyst for Youngstown Police Department, was approved for a one year period for 2021. The contract sets her salary at $33,700.
  • The contract renewal for Guy Burney, executive director of Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, was approved for a one year period for 2021. The contract sets his salary at $65,000. 


Ellen Wagner

About the Author: Ellen Wagner

Ellen Wagner reports on municipal services and budget cuts in Youngstown. She is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.
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