County employees discuss health insurance

Published 11:27 am Friday, November 21, 2008

Roughly a dozen Lawrence County employees attended Thursday’s county commission meeting to express their concerns about health insurance.

In the end, the commission held off making any decision about insurance until Tuesday of next week.

Lawrence County Sheriff Tim Sexton presented the commission with a petition from several members of his staff, asking the commission to get an independent opinion about the three insurance proposals they are considering, United Health Care, Medical Mutual and Central States.

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“I understand costs are going up,” Sexton said. “My employees are signing contracts for 25 and 35-cent an hour raises and getting insurance raises of 10 and 15 and 20 percent, so they’re getting raises but because of insurance they’re taking home less money,” Sexton said.

Commission President Doug Malone acknowledged that, “This is one of the major decisions we make. We have to protect employees and also the taxpayers.”

Both Malone and Commissioner Jason Stephens said they have concerns about joining Central States Health and Welfare Fund, even though that entity is offering rates that are less expensive than what the county has now.

Malone said he is concerned that if the county wanted to leave that entity and seek insurance in the future, they may not get the information about the amount of claims paid and other data that would be necessary to present to another insurance company.

Stephens said his concern is that right now, as a health and welfare fund created to serve Teamsters union employees, Central States is not subject to requirements of Ohio’s Multiple Employee Welfare Agreement (MEWA). He said Central States officials have told him they are not interested in doing so. If the county takes Central States Insurance and the Ohio Department of Insurance later decides that Central States, with their new, non-union county employees, should be regulated by MEWA, Central States, not wanting to do that, would drop the non-union employees. If it was to join Central States, Lawrence County may be the first county in the state to put its non-union employees under this kind health and welfare fund.

“I’m not saying Central States is not good insurance, the problem is taking something designed for a union and making it fit our group,” Stephens said.

Moving to United Health Care may mean an increase of roughly 8 percent unless the county eliminates the choice that allows employees to take a $200 deductible. By moving all employees to one of two higher deductibles, the UHC proposal would be nearly the same cost as what the county has now. Staying with Medical Mutual would mean an increase of as much as 18.8 percent.

In other matters, the commission hired two part-time employees as janitors. Adam Myers will start Monday, Noah Triplett will start the following week.

Commissioner Tanner Heaberlin publicly thanked the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office for its handling of a burglary in progress at his mother-in-law’s house earlier in the week.

“They caught all three guys within an hour or two, and were there in about seven minutes. I think that’s good response time. I want to thank them,” Heaberlin said.

Clerk of Courts Les Boggs told the commission he thought the figures presented in the recent state performance audit for his office were wrong. Boggs said the caseload for his office is actually 1,589 total cases rather than the 1,262 the state officials said it was.