Health insurance coverage became a focal point of Cummins Inc.’s annual meeting even though it wasn’t on the agenda Tuesday.

Eight protesters representing the International Brotherhood of Teamsters displayed a banner at the Central Avenue entrance of the Columbus Engine Plant, site of the meeting, and distributed fliers to people who entered.

During the question-and-answer portion of the annual meeting, two men associated with the Teamsters posed direct questions to Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger about the company’s health insurance plan.

The problem, they said, was with the company’s high-deductible plan.

Mike Matlick, 62, a mechanic at Cummins’ distributor shop in Fairmont, West Virginia, and a member of Teamsters Local 175, said that the shop has its own health care plan and clinic through the Teamsters that it likes and wants to keep. The West Virginia shop was among the independent distributors Cummins has purchased in the past few years.

“Your Cummins high-deductible plan is unacceptable. (A) $6,000 up front medical deductible is just unaffordable. It will hurt our families,” Matlick said.

Matteo Colombi, a representative with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, said that under Cummins’ proposal the shop’s employees would see their family deductible increase from $700 to $6,000, and they would lose access to the local union clinic.

High-deductible plans are inappropriate for children, and result in people delaying care and causing their conditions to become more acute, Colombi said.

“At Cummins we care deeply about our employees and their health care. We have committed ourselves to offer high quality heath care to our employees, and are doing every piece of work to make sure we can continue to do that in the environment we find ourselves in,” Linebarger said.

The chairman and CEO added that in addition to implementing a new health care plan, Cummins had increased pensions and salaries and compensation bonuses for its distribution workers.

Matlick said the union and Cummins have been unable to reach an agreement, and that he and others at the shop have been working under an old contract because a new one hasn’t been reached.

After the meeting, Matlick and Colombi spoke with Linebarger and Rich Freeland, the company’s president and chief operating officer.

The company agreed to give the men a tour of its new LiveWell Center, which opened last year at 806 Jackson St., adjacent to the company’s downtown Columbus corporate headquarters, and serves about 9,500 Cummins employees and their dependents, about 17,000 people in all.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.