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Flossmoor gets good news on employee health insurance rates, hears plans for downtown wine tasting room

Flossmoor officials went on a roller coaster ride before arriving at employee health insurance rates this spring, but when the ride ended, the result was better than they hoped.

At one point, it looked like premiums would jump to twice the increase the village budgeted for, but at the May 20 Board of Trustees meeting, Finance Director Ann Novoa presented an agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) that went the other way, coming in at half of the budgeted rate.

The village had expected rates to rise and had budgeted for an 8% increase. The first quote from BCBS, however, included a 16.21% rate hike. The village got help from consulting firm the Horton Group to negotiate with BCBS.

“Blue Cross came back with an overall 4.9% increase, which shocked both myself and the Horton Group, resulting in a budget savings of approximately $60,800 on employee insurance,” Novoa said. “After this fantastic news, I’m recommending that the village stays with Blue Cross Blue Shield for health insurance with the same exact plan layouts as the previous year.”

Mike Wojcik, executive vice president for Horton Group, offered additional background on the healthcare market and why the negotiations were challenging this year.

While Flossmoor’s loss ratio increased last year, the village’s insured population is trending younger, which helps contain costs, Wojcik said. He also complimented the village on achieving 100% participation in health screenings. 

“That is one of the best preventive pieces you could offer your employees,” he said. 

He said it is more important than ever to promote preventive care. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion of the population lost trust in the healthcare system and avoided routine care entirely. 

“Surveys show there’s 70% of people (who) do not trust healthcare. So as a result, they’re sitting on a sideline, and that’s only hurting themselves,” he said.

The board unanimously approved renewing healthcare coverage with BCBS.

In other business, the board discussed a liquor license request from William Hightower of Cuvee Concierge, a wine consulting business with an office in Flossmoor Commons. Hightower told the board he was exploring the possibility of opening a wine tasting room downtown. 

Hightower told the board the vision he has is Tower Tasting Room would be a place people can enjoy and learn about quality wines produced in small, family-owned vineyards. Food options would feature appetizers and charcuterie boards. He said the establishment he has in mind would complement rather than compete with restaurants downtown.

He said he is looking at 1036 Sterling as the home for the tasting room, which could host events and include live music at times. 

Hightower said he hopes to build a small staff of people who want to learn about wine and perhaps make a career of serving and teaching about wine.

“I think the world can be very pretentious, and I understand why, but I really want to be approachable for people so they can have exciting times to learn about wine,” he said.

Board members all expressed support for the proposal, so village staff will develop a liquor license appropriate for the business.

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