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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Health insurance impact to budget could be up to $89K

  • Health insurance for Phelps County employees will impact the county's 2014 budget anywhere from about $39,000 to approximately $89,000, with the sheriff's department being affected the most, county officials were told last week.
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  • Health insurance for Phelps County employees will impact the county's 2014 budget anywhere from about $39,000 to approximately $89,000, with the sheriff's department being affected the most, county officials were told last week.
    Depending on what health insurance plans county commissioners choose from its current provider, UnitedHealthcare, annual fees associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or "Obamacare" as it's commonly called, total $33,877.44 for the county.
    The commissioners plan to make a final decision Tuesday on which health insurance plan to offer to county employees for next year. County employees are required to know 30 days in advance of any changes to their health insurance plans before they take effect, which will be Jan. 1, 2014.
    The commission and County Clerk Carol Bennett have been working with the county's insurance broker, Sheran Ashby, of Ashby's Covenant Insurance, of St. James, for the last two months on renewal of the county's health insurance plans.
    While the county received offers from Anthem and Coventry, commissioners decided to narrow their options down to the renewal offers from the county's existing health care provider, UnitedHealthcare.
    UnitedHealthcare initially offered the county an 18.22 percent increase for its basic renewal, but Ashby was able to negotiate that down to about 12 percent.
    Coventry's bid came in about 48 percent over the current plan costs, according to commissioners.
    Ashby said if the county chose Anthem, which at the time had not negotiated with the BJC health system, county employees would have to pay more if they went to a BJC hospital, such as ones in the St. Louis area. Anthem also had lower rates, but higher ACA fees.
    The options commissioners discussed with county officeholders and other department heads Nov. 21 during the commission meeting include a renewal that would keep the county employees' benefits the same as 2013 for a rate increase of 12 percent. That would amount to a total county budget impact of $89,676, with the sheriff's department's budget impact being $46,428 and county general fund's impact being $23,532. The increase to employee-only coverage would be $9.35 per month.
    The second option for renewal raises the maximum out-of-pocket employees would pay to $4,000 annually. This option would raise the employee-only coverage by $7.57 per month. The total county budget impact under the second option, would be $72,653, with $37,615 coming from the sheriff's department budget and $19,065 from the county revenue fund.
    Another option would be to raise the maximum out-of-pocket employees to $4,000 annually and doctor's co-pays would go from $20/$40 per visit to $30/$60 per visit for a maximum of four visits per year, excluding a wellness exam visit. After that, county employees would pay more for each visit.
    The increase to employee-only coverage would be $4.10 per month or employees have the option to "buy up" to a plan with increased benefits for about $23.16 more per month.
    Under this option, the total county budget impact is estimated at $39,339, with $20,367 coming from the sheriff's department budget and $10,323 from the county revenue fund.
    Page 2 of 2 - District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said the budget impacts are "not insignificant but not insurmountable." The reason for the high impact to the sheriff's department's budget is that about 73 employees currently enrolled in the plan work for that department.
    An estimated 80 percent of all county employees who participate in the plan are currently purchasing the employee-only option.
    County employees would still pay 15 percent of the health insurance costs as they did this year. Other than the differences mentioned above, all plans offer the same deductibles, co-insurance, prescription coverage and wellness exams. One other change, required by the ACA, is that all payments can be applied to an employee's deductible except for pharmacy costs.
    Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said he favored the first renewal option, saying, "There's appeal to me for keeping it simple."
    Stratman also said the "doors are still open about self-funding" insurance and said commissioners will research that option more next year. He said the county could be looking at self-funding for health insurance by this time next year. Under self-funding, Stratman said the cost would be higher than what the county and employees are paying now for insurance, but it would be less expensive when paying claims. "We'd still have a local agent and we'd just bid the re-insurance every year," Stratman said.
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