WBY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Health insurance premiums for the attractive benefit plan most Greene County employees currently use will cost up to $326 per paycheck for family coverage in the coming fiscal year.
The Greene County Insurance Committee approved on Wednesday premium rates for the new, three-option plan intended to take effect in July.
Currently, employees have two insurance options, with the vast majority paying more in orderhave more benefits than the baseline.
As of July 1, however, employees will pay double the premium that they currently pay for the increased-benefit plan just to receive the current baseline benefits, according to county department heads.
Jim Jordan, the county's insurance broker, has explained the cost increase as resulting from increased claims over the past 12 months plus added fees and coverage expectations placed on employers by the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.
Representatives from each of the county offices attended Wednesday's meeting to hear this report and begin passing the word on to employees about the coming increases.
A new baseline plan, which offers reduced benefits but also offers slightly reduced premiums from the current baseline plan, will cost an employee $12 per paycheck for individual coverage and up to $61 per paycheck for family coverage.
The new Option 1, which represents the current baseline benefits, will now cost $37 per paycheck for individuals and $176 for family coverage.
The new Option 2, which represents the increased-benefit plan under which the majority of employees are currently enrolled, will cost $84 per paycheck for individual coverage and $326 per paycheck for family coverage.
This would increase the premiums on this more popular current option from the current $15 per paycheck for individuals and $89 per paycheck for families.
County employees are paid every two weeks.
The county will still pay the bulk of the premiums, at a rate of approximately double what the employee pays in premiums, according to the rates approved on Wednesday.
Employees currently pay only 5 to 12 percent of the premium cost.
This vote is final and does not need approval from the Greene County Commission.
The commission only sets the level at which the county funds the self-insured insurance plan.
The county's insurance covers full-time employees and provides some coverage for retirees, up to age 65, who have worked for 30 years or more for the county, according to Budget Director Mary Shelton.
County commissioners are not covered by the plan, nor are school system employees.
Jim Jordan, the county's insurance broker, has reported that an average of 364 employees participate in the plan, with a total number of employees and dependents on the plan averaging 828.
The committee approved in April remaining with UnitedHealthCare for the county's reinsurance.
Although significantly increased from the current costs, these premiums are slightly reduced from the committee's original estimates as the result of an additional reduction in benefits approved Wednesday.
Shelton and UnitedHealthCare representative Ginger Pyle reported that the county paid $40,000 in the current fiscal year for full-coverage vision insurance for employees.
Utilization of this plan was so poor, Pyle reported, that the plan only paid out in claims about half of the $40,000 the county paid for the insurance.
Sheriff Steve Burns, a member of the committee, speculated that this is due to employees' dissatisfaction with the very limited options for in-network providers and lack of knowledge about out-of-network reimbursements.
"I don't think the employees still understand that the out-of-network benefits are good," Burns said.
Both Shelton and Maintenance Director Russell Kinser shared stories of their own dissatisfaction with the current plan's choice in providers.
The committee heard from representatives Gina Shelton and Bill Isbell, of Bird, Isbell & Associates, a Greeneville-based firm that advised the committee to offer Vision Care Direct: a voluntary vision insurance plan through the Association of Private Practice Optometrists.
Although more expensive, the plan offers increased benefits, numerous options and access to those local, small-practice optometrists that employees prefer, Gina Shelton said.
The committee voted to approve a voluntary-only vision care plan in which employees can either utilize Vision Care Direct or the current UnitedHealthCare vision plan.
The $40,000 the county previously put into the vision plan while it was fully-insured will go toward off-setting the county's potential deficit in its health insurance funding.
Jordan, who advised the committee on this matter, noted that the estimated cost of the new plan will be about $4.18 million for the county, which is already $70,000 more than the county funds, not including the $200,000 annual cost of the county clinic.
Applying the $40,000 to the health insurance costs could help the county avoid falling short of its health insurance plan funding, Jordan said.
"We could be underfunded. That is one thing you do not want to do," he said. "My recommendation would be that there is no 'extra' $40,000."
The committee voted unanimously to use this money toward health insurance costs, as recommended.
The committee approved financial reports and several motions by County Attorney Woolsey to clarify policy for the county's self-insurance, including:
* Claims payments for damage to county property will include the repair cost, less the deductible, or fair-market value, less the deductible;
* If county vehicles or equipment are stolen and the department is reimbursed through the county insurance and the items are later recovered, the department may buy the recovered equipment back at fair market value, less the deductible; and,
* The county will wait 60 days before paying for the loss of equipment related to a theft.