County looking to handle big increase in medical insurance premiums | News

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MADISON — Madison County is working through a major jump in medical insurance premiums for its employees at a time when department supervisors are reporting the necessity to increase wages to retain and attract employees.

On Tuesday, the county board discussed a 17% increase in medical insurance premiums for 2023 that was cut and negotiated down from 22% from the provider.

Commissioners spoke to Mike Bouden, the Nebraska Association of County Officials’ advantages services manager, via teleconferene during much of the discussion.

Troy Uhlir, county board chairman, said he understood that the rise was lowered when Blue Cross/Blue Shield agreed to take a lower administrative fee and reserves within the money balance were used to pay for claims that exceeded premiums last 12 months.

Bouden said that was correct, and there have been changes within the plan that helped as well.

Uhlir said the 17% increase would end in about $338,000 of increased premiums for Madison County. The county is paying about $2 million in medical insurance premiums annually for its employees, although employees do contribute.

Uhlir asked if Bouden knew what other counties were doing.

Bouden said some groups were expecting it, as there have been only 2% and three% increases in several recent years. So when the newest increase is averaged over 4 or five years, the rise is just about 5%, he said

“They give the impression of being at it as that’s the way in which it’s,” he said. “Every thing goes up.”

The rise was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, partially. During it, many individuals couldn’t have elective surgeries done, so that they did them previously 12 months, which contributed to the rise in payouts.

As well as, the statewide plan had several major cancer treatments and a few premature births, which caused expenses to be much higher than premiums, he said.

Bouden said considered one of the choices being considered by other counties is reducing all or a part of their “buy-down.” Many counties like Madison County pay so employees can have lower deductibles.

Lately, Madison County has spent about $100,000 annually in order that employees can get their deductible reduced from $2,600 to $1,500. Including administrative fees, that costs the county about $100,000.

Anne Pruss, county clerk, fielded questions on enrollment. Of the county’s roughly 180 full-time and part-time employees, 111 are on the plan. And previously 12 months, 22% of them benefited by having the deductible lowered to $1,500.

Commissioners had a lengthy discussion about how the county goes to want to attempt to hold the road on costs, yet try to take care of medical insurance advantages and increase wages.

Several times commissioners said they’d heard from the elected officials who oversee offices that they’re having difficulty hiring recent staff or keeping those they’ve. With inflation, jobs that was considered entry level are actually paying $15 an hour and up, which was higher than lots of the starting wages the county paid in most offices last 12 months.

Ron Schmidt, considered one of the commissioners, said his biggest concern is that employees don’t think the county was just trying to avoid wasting $100,000 and pocket the funds for the county.

Schmidt said a number of the employees who would profit most by the lower deductible are older staff, who generally use health care greater than younger staff.

Uhlir and Eric Stinson, the latest commissioner, said they understand his concerns.

Stinson said he knows how necessary medical insurance is to employees. He said considered one of the primary things he heard from a few county employees was to not mess up their medical insurance.

Uhlir agreed. But he said the county is also going to need to try to extend wages, and the $100,000 it saves will probably increase salaries by only about 25 cents an hour.

Uhlir said the county goes to have spend greater than that to extend wages, so it will be viewed that not only is the county paying for much of the medical insurance increase, it is also using the savings on the deductible for increased wages for everybody.

Because the figures indicated, not everyone advantages from the buy-down on the deductible, but everyone does when wages increase, Uhlir said.

Ultimately, the county board voted 3-0 to eliminate the buy-down deductible, but it’ll not go into effect into Jan. 1, 2023. The medical insurance 12 months goes in response to the calendar, and the brand new fiscal 12 months will start Friday, July 1.

Meaning employees still could benefit from the lower deductible by addressing major health needs before Jan. 1.

The Madison County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday.

Members present: Chairman Troy Uhlir, Ron Schmidt and Eric Stinson.

Others in attendance: Anne Pruss, county clerk; Dick Johnson, roads superintendent; no person from the general public and two reporters.

Meeting lasted: One hour and 10 minutes, not including fewer than half-hour when the county board met as a board of equalization.

— Recited the Pledge of Allegiance and had a moment of silence. Noted the open meetings law is posted and followed.

— Met as a board of equalization and approved a listing of tax exemptions and corrections.

— Approved an agreement with Nebraska Association of County Officials for advantages services provided by Advantages Experts to employees during 2022 open enrollment.

— Approved an agreement with Appraisal Services Inc., Central City, for appraisal services for the county assessor’s office with a completion date of Thursday, June 30.

— Acknowledged receipt of the continuation certificate for the office bond of Tim Means as secretary/treasurer of Meadow Grove Rural Fire District.

— Approved voluntary profit programs offered by AFLAC, Colonial Life and Nationwide.

— Reviewed written reports and processed claims.

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