Wednesday, April 20


County stays with Health Alliance

Employees to heft slight cost difference          Send a link to a friend 

[APRIL 20, 2005]  The county will renew a health insurance agreement with the company that they have been with, Health Alliance. Sara Schwantz, who brokers insurance, made the recommendation to the insurance committee. Insurance chair Gloria Luster said that Schwantz made the recommendation after evaluating other insurance company programs and with consideration for the county employees' needs.

The impact of changing insurance weighed heavily in the decision to stay with the same company, Schwantz said, since a change in companies often results in a change of doctors and clinics. People get accustomed to their doctors and it is difficult to change around.

A change in companies would create more work too. Schwantz assists the county board secretary, JoAnne Marlin, when county employees have insurance questions. It is difficult to get accustomed to new programs, learning what is covered and what is not.

And finally, the costs of comparable insurance programs offered by other companies were within a few dollars of the current recommendation as well.

A 14 percent increase was expected. However, the bid came in lower at a 7 percent increase over last year's figure.

The county renewed the HMO 310 plan at $326 (last year's was $303) and the PPO 810 plan at $374 (last year's was $348) per month per employee.

It was proposed last Thursday to raise the employee cap. The cap sets the amount paid by the employee, and it would be raised from $303 to $326 per employee per month to meet the new cost. However, when the proposal was made it was based on a cost difference that was a miscalculation. The figure did not multiply the cost difference per employee for 12 months.

The new figure led to a change of heart on Tuesday. "I don't think that the county can afford at this time to hand $37,812 extra out," board member John Stewart said. That amount is the corrected figure for the difference to raise the cap to cover all 137 employees with full insurance coverage for one year. It would cost an additional $22,056 to finish out this fiscal year from May 1 to Nov. 30, Ruben said.

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The county is also now providing health insurance for the Logan County Health Department employees. That department normally covers its employees out of its own budget, but the health department did not receive a levy this year. They are included in the cap differential figures, Ruben said.

Ruben and Schwantz said that there are options that would lower the monthly payment, and it could stay below or near the current cap rate. There are policies that could be chosen that offer higher deductibles, increased office visit co-pays and out-of-pocket expenses. But it would cost the employees more if they use those. Just a brief survey of the options clearly shows the 810 plan to be the best, Ruben said.

The employees will be picking up the $23 per month difference between the policy and the cap. Gloria Luster said that employees will actually pay $276 for their health insurance policy for one year.

John Stewart reasoned that employees got 3 percent raises last year when the consumer price index was only 2.6 percent. So, it kind of equals out a little bit, he said.

[Jan Youngquist]

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