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Insurance key for taxpayers

Health care and insurance may be the hottest topic in the halls of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. these days but this has also been a key discussion in government offices much closer to home.

While the national changes to health care and how insurance is administered could have a tremendous impact on every citizen — whether positive or negative remains to be seen — the issues being addressed locally can affect Lawrence Countians as well.

As government in general struggles with evaporating revenue, ever-increasing expenses and public sentiment against offering more money for less services, insurance costs become even more important.

The Lawrence County commission agreed to its 2010 plan with United Health Care. And while it may not sound like much, the county was able to net a savings of more than $60,000 compared to last year.

This is actually a solid victory for the commissioners — and ultimately the taxpayers. This was made possible by them playing hardball in negotiations with United and switching consultants.

At $3.6 million a year, health insurance is among the county’s biggest expenses. And when you consider that insurance has historically increased at least several percent each year, any reduction is a step in the right direction.

But, this should only be considered the first step.

The commissioners should make 2010 the year that it equalizes insurance plans for all county departments and their unions.

The amount of employee contributions vary widely with some office employees getting 100 percent of their insurance paid for. Others still pay far less than people employed in the private sector.

We can’t wait for Washington. We need our own version of health care reform right here at home.