Active county employees will soon see a change in policies pertaining to their eligibility for health insurance as they approach retirement with the Phelps County Commission approving on Tuesday a number of administrative changes to the group policy.


Active county employees will soon see a change in policies pertaining to their eligibility for health insurance as they approach retirement with the Phelps County Commission approving on Tuesday a number of administrative changes to the group policy.
The new eligibility requirements, effective Jan. 1, do not affect current retirees, but only present and future hires. Phelps County presently retains a staff of 179 full-and part-time employees.
The five changes approved by the Commission include the following criteria:
• A retiree will not be eligible for retiree insurance coverage when the retired employee turns 65 years old and is Medicare eligible. The employee will terminate coverage, and any dependents will have COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) rights.
• If an employee becomes eligible for Medicare before age 65, the employee will terminate the county’s insurance coverage, and dependents will have COBRA rights.
• Any employee of Phelps County who has attained 25 years of service with Phelps County, upon retirement from Phelps County, may elect to be carried on the Phelps County health insurance policy. The employee must elect to continue coverage immediately upon leaving employment with Phelps County. The employee must pay, in advance, the employee portion of the insurance premiums, and the county will pay the county’s portion of the premium.
• Any employee who has attained 15 years of service with Phelps County and retires from Phelps County may elect to be carried on the Phelps County health insurance policy. The employee must elect to continue coverage immediately upon leaving employment with Phelps County. If coverage is not selected, the employee forfeits the right to retiree coverage. The employee must pay both the employee and the county’s share of the premium in advance.
The Commission initiated the discourse on changing the health insurance eligibility requirements on Dec. 23 when Commissioner Larry Stratman advised the other two commissioners, Randy Verkamp and Bud Dean, that the changes already had been approved by the Commission three years ago, but Anthem Blue Cross had not been notified.
Also, the commissioners agreed it was time to close a loophole that allowed a former short-term employee to return to the county and ask for a “retiree’s” benefit of being covered once again by the county’s health insurance.