County insurance up 6.48 percent

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 14, 2007

It may cost more for county employees to get sick or stay well next year.

The Lawrence County Commission Tuesday approved a one-year contract for employee health insurance with Medical Mutual Insurance through Brown-Raybourn and Associates. The cost is going up and that increase will likely be passed on to county employees whose insurance is paid for out of the county general fund.

Commissioners said the changes were an attempt to keep costs down, though it is not likely to make anybody very happy.

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“Insurance is a burden to the county and a burden to employees,” Commissioner Doug Malone said. “But it is something you have to have.”

The county will spend approximately $1.4 million on insurance this year. That is 6.48 percent more than last year and while six percent is less of a hike for the county’s general fund than in previous years, it still amounts to a $275,000 increase that is being absorbed through higher deductibles and/or higher premiums.

The new plan will offer employees three deductibles, $250, $500 and $1,000 annually.

Last year the county only offered the lower two deductibles. As it has in the past, the county will contribute a flat amount to each employee’s premium, instead of a percentage. Those who choose the highest deductible will contribute less toward the monthly premium than those who choose the smaller one. This is true whether the employee takes a single, family or employee/child plan.

For instance, an employee on a single plan who chooses a $250 annual deductible will pay $167.57 monthly. This amounts to nearly 25 percent of the total monthly premium. The county will pay the rest.

The employee on a single plan who chooses a $1,000 annual deductible will pay $ 61.29 monthly. This is approximately 11 percent of the total monthly premium. The county pays $504 monthly toward the single plan premium.

The employee who has family plan insurance will receive $1,640 monthly from the county toward their monthly premium. If they choose the $250 deductible, they will pay $545.58 monthly. If they choose the higher deductible, they will pay $199.66 monthly. The lower deductible requires a nearly 25 percent contribution from the employee; the higher deductible requires a nearly 11 percent chip-in from the employee.

Employees who opt out of the county insurance altogether will get a $1,000 monetary incentive. Right now, 35 employees take the incentive.

The action on insurance came after a closed-door meeting with a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police and members of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.

Some sheriff’s employees have said that while they got a 25-cent-an-hour raise last year, the hike in the insurance premiums was larger than their pay raise, meaning some people wound up taking home less money than they did before they got the raise.

Wes Elson, staff representative for the FOP, said he is alarmed at the co-pays and insurance rates the sheriff’s office employees pay in comparison with that in other jurisdictions. While he said the meeting with commissioners was “amicable,” it was also a chance “to discuss our options.” He did not elaborate on what options the FOP has.