Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Officials got a dose of good news last week– the county’s insurance plan would see only a minimal increase in cost. But leaders say they’ve still got to look at the county’s long-term health, financially and otherwise.
“We’re getting ready to review our insurance,” said Judge Executive Mike Miller. “We’ve got to make some tough decisions. Even though the increase this year isn’t great, but you’re still talking almost $2 million. We’re not going to be able to sustain that.”
Miller, commissioner Terry Anderson and County Treasurer Emily Martin met with representatives from Peel & Holland Friday to discuss the county’s insurance options. The fiscal court is expected to discuss the issue further at its regular meeting today (Oct. 11).
“You’ve gone up in membership slightly, around 312 total members to 325,” said Greg Carlton Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits. Employee members rose from 155 to 158. “That’s an average number. Today, I think there’s 171 [employees] on the plan. You’ve got some fluctuation at any given time based on who wants what plan.”
Carlton said he projected 171 employees would still be on the plan at the end of the year.
According to Carlton, the county will only see a slight increase in cost to maintain the same level of coverage for employees next year. The county covers the whole insurance cost for single-plan employees and pays a portion of family-plans. The county pays on average a little more than 85 percent of each employee’s insurance cost.
Many county workers pay less than state workers in several categories. Following state statute, the county is prohibited from charging workers more for services than state contemporaries.
Currently, the county spends $1.615 million on employee insurance. If the enrollee numbers remain flat and plan options do not change, the county would spend $1.634 million.
“You pay about 86 percent of the cost today,” Carlton said. “That would be about 85 and a half percent. Employees today pay around $259,809. Employees in the new plan will pay about $279, 332.”
Carlton said his office could help the county control costs by entering into an agreement with Aflac. The move would require longer enrollments for employees, but would allow for more education and discussion on insurance options.
“Aflac had agreed to pay a fee, basically, to offset that cost,” Carlton said. “It would save the county a little extra. We’re taking the position that we need to educate them more... to help them make better consumer decisions.”
Both Miller and Anderson said the county needed to look for ways to get employees to reduce costs. According to Carlton, the majority of county employees enrolled in the insurance used services only minimally.
“Eighty-five percent of the workers rarely ever see a doctor,” Carlton said. “It’s 10 or 15 percent of the workers that wind up with 80 percent of the cost of the plan.”