BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County government may see a 30 percent increase in costs for health insurance, the county clinic and vision insurance for the coming fiscal year, a county committee was told Wednesday.
Jim Jordan, the county's insurance broker, made this announcement during Wednesday's meeting of the Greene County Insurance Committee.
The projections indicated that such a rate increase to the county would mean an increased cost per employee, per month (PEPM) from the current $1,130 to $1,300 - $1,320 for health insurance alone -- which Jordan said does not include the optional vision coverage or the county clinic, which the county currently fully funds at no cost to the employee.
In response to the report, the committee tasked Jordan with providing in March a summary of what benefits the county could provide employees without any cost increase to the employee or county share.
In addition, the committee requested tiered options for employees to either pay an increased premium or an increased deductible, based on their personal benefit needs, for additional coverage.
The committee also asked for quotes for similar coverage from other insurance companies, including the state insurance plan.
The annual total cost for the 2012 calendar year for health insurance was nearly $5 million, while the county has only budgeted for $3.9 million each fiscal year (July through June) for the past two years, Jordan said.
(Additional funds are budgeted for the clinic and the vision plan for a total county insurance budget of $4.6 million each fiscal year. Employees pay about 10 percent of this cost at $457,000 annually, Jordan said.)
This $5 million actual cost came right at the projections estimated by United Healthcare, the insurance company that administers the county's self-insurance program, Jordan noted.
He said in an interview after the meeting that he supported the county's decision to not make changes such as an increased budget last year in light of the uncertainty created by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare.
Budget Director Mary Shelton also provides the committee with monthly reports on the insurance funds, and noted Wednesday that the fund balance first transferred to create the Insurance Fund for the new self-insurance plan two years ago still remains at about $840,000.
This is about the same amount as was originally transferred to create the fund.
For the coming fiscal year, however, Jordan informed the committee that "tentative numbers" and two projections from underwriters for United Healthcare indicate changes may need to be made to prepare for significant increases in costs.
"We may do better than this," he concluded. "These are conservative projections."
The increases included fixed costs, such as a five percent increase in the administrative fee, and increases in the individual and aggregate stop-loss premiums.
(An individual stop loss premium is an amount paid for liability coverage that allows the county to be not responsible for any single claim that is more than $125,000.
(An aggregate stop loss premium is an amount paid for liability coverage that allows the county to not be responsible for any situation in which the total of all claims in a fiscal year exceeds the county's maximum liability of $5.5 million.)
Projections also included increases in claims costs based on annual trends of 13 percent or 11.7 percent, depending on how much weight each underwriter gave the higher national annual cost increase with Greene County's lower annual cost increase.
These estimates ranged from a total projected cost for the coming fiscal year of $5.7 to $5.8 million for health insurance.
In addition to these costs, the county also incurs an additional $200,000 in annual cost for the clinic, while the vision plan costs about $40,000 annually, Jordan said.