County switches back to Blue Cross for insurance

Friday, May 23, 2014

By Karen Hall


When Marshall County's employee benefits committee reconvened their meeting Monday, insurance broker Paul Roussel of Brown and Brown gave them a quick recap of the decisions made so far.

"I appreciate you guys giving me another week," he said. "We've been running at a bad loss ratio with Humana (the county's current health insurance provider), and we were facing a tough renewal.

"Blue Cross is coming in as our best option," Roussel continued. "It will be cost neutral, or pretty close."

He went on to say the high-deductible plan was the one to push. The deductible is $2,500, with a $3,000 annual out-of-pocket maximum. This plan has better drug coverage, especially for people who are on "maintenance drugs" for high blood pressure or diabetes, for instance.

"That's a pretty big enhancement," Roussel said. Free tele-doc service (phone access to nurse practitioners and doctors who can give advice and phone in prescriptions) will be included.

By taking this plan, county employees may see their rates go down a bit, but they will be encouraged to put any extra money they get into a Health Savings Account.

"We want people to look at the high deductible plan to save some money," said Roussel.

A Simplicity Plan must also be offered as an option, but it involves co-pays for everything.

"I don't see them taking that plan," Roussel said. "By no means are we pushing it."

Committee members moved on to discussing the county paying for critical illness coverage for employees. Guardian has a plan for this that Roussel recommends, which would cost the county about $51,000. Each employee would get $10,000 if he or she got a first-time diagnosis of a critical illness, and dependents would get $5,000.

"The insurance company is offering this plan because they're going to make money on it," said Emergency Medical Service Director Bill Reuter. "You could turn $60,000 into a 2 percent raise. They might see a raise as more of a benefit."

Budget Director Catherine Brooks was not in favor of reducing any benefits.

"We lose employees because of our benefits," she exclaimed.

"We've got to give employees as much of a benefit as we can," agreed committee member Nathan Johnson. "Let's try to give them an incentive to work for Marshall County."

"They would probably like a raise better," said committee member Mickey King.

Committee members voted unanimously in favor of offering the Guardian plan with the $10,000 benefit.

County employees who take single coverage will get their health insurance for free, as long as they participate in the wellness plan and get their annual physical. Those who don't agree to participate will pay $20 per pay period for their insurance.

Committee members discussed raising this to $25, but Brooks pointed out she thought $20 was fair.

"That was enough of an incentive last year," she said. All but eight employees got physicals.

"We must make sure we explain to employees, if they get their physical done, they will get a check for $150 (from the Guardian plan) and the county will give them insurance for free," said Johnson. "It's all in the presentation."

Committee members unanimously approved keeping the cost of insurance for single employees who don't get a physical at $20 per pay period.

Meetings with county employees about their insurance coverage will start the day after Memorial Day.