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County commissioners move health care

County commissioners move health care coverage forward

Rebecca Pierce Editor

Next year's health care plan for Barry County employees was a focal point of the county board's committee of the whole meeting Tuesday. A presentation by Deputy County Administrator Luella Dennison and Stephanie Lehman, one of the members of the county's healthcare cost containment committee, laid out a comparative assessment of proposed health care plans for 2019.

The plan, which is expected to be approved by the county board at its regular meeting next Tuesday, will cover all county employees and elected officials, including the commissioners.
Priority Health Care, the current health care provider for the county, and Blue Cross Blue Shield were the only companies that offered quotes, Dennison said.

An initial cost comparison showed that Blue Cross Blue Shield was slightly lower – except for the health savings accounts, but that is what made the difference, Dennison said, noting that the number of county employees with HSAs far exceeds the number who opt for health maintenance organizations.

“When Blue Cross Blue Shield gave us a quote, they gave us a total cost quote that was just slightly lower than the Priority Health quote,” Dennison said in an interview Wednesday. “But when we looked at how they broke down the premiums for the plans, they were slightly higher. It would have been more costly to more employees.”

For county employees under Priority Health in 2019, the lowest monthly premiums would be for the HMO HSA plan for which an individual would pay $449, a couple would pay $1,033 and a family would pay $1,235. The highest monthly premiums would be for the standard HMO in which an individual would pay $681; a couple would pay $1,567 and a family would pay $1,873. Beyond the cost of the premium, the cost to the employee will depend on deductibles, coinsurance and copays.

In the four plans cited, the increases in premiums would range from 5.96 percent to 9.69 percent for employees. The employer contribution would increase by 1.9 percent, as allowed by Public Act 152. That legislation requires local units of government to place a hard cap on health care, instituting an 80/20 cost-sharing arrangement – or opting out with a two-thirds vote of the governing body. As a result, in any of the four plans, the employer contribution would be $6,685 for an individual, $13,981 for a couple and $18,232 for a family. Employees would pay the remaining cost for the health plan premiums that exceed the annual caps.

The committee is recommending four plans instead of five; two non-HSA plans would be replaced by a single plan that increases the deductible for one of the plans and lowers the coinsurance percentage for the other plan, resulting in a reduction in the employee share of the premium. The HSA plan with the lowest deductible would be changed to reduce the coinsurance percentage from 80 to 70; the two high deductible plans would remain unchanged. Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with the recommendation for the Priority Health plan in 2019.

In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a motion to recommend the purchase of a network security audit from MGT Consulting Group for $24,400. This vendor, recommended by the county's information technology coordinator David Shinavier, will perform an audit and vulnerability assessment review of the county IT infrastructure. This will meet the new State Office of Child Support independent security audit requirement. Commissioners also unanimously approved recommending a bid that an HVAC contract be awarded to Environmental Systems Solutions in Ada to provide HVAC maintenance services from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31, 2021. The cost for this service will be $25,870 per year.

In other recommendations expected to go to the full board next week, commissioners approved Cindy Vujea to serve on the economic development, parks and recreation board while Pattie Richardson was approved for service on the Humane Society, animal shelter advisory board. Board Chairman Ben Geiger noted a location change for next week's county board meeting. The board meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Tyden Center. The public is welcome to attend.

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