Part Of Insurance Increase Pass On To County Employees

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In a split decision, the Athens County Commissioners voted Tuesday to pass on to county employees part of a health insurance rate increase.

The affected government employees are those non-union employees paid from the county general fund. That would included non-union employees of most county offices, excluding the engineer's department and outside agencies like Athens County Children Services.

The county offers "high" and "low" medical plans, with the higher plan costing more but having lower deductibles.

If the commissioners had passed on the full increase, the $40.86 per-pay cost of single coverage would have increased to $43.06 under the high plan, and gone from $38.36 to $40.42 under the low plan. For family coverage, the $107.70 cost per pay under the high plan would have increased to $113.51, and under the low plan gone from $101.10 to $106.55.

Commissioner Charlie Adkins made a motion for the county to absorb the increase, and not pass it on to employees.

"I don't think that's a good idea," Commissioner Lenny Eliason responded.

Eliason said that if the commissioners' goal is to have employees pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs — which the county has negotiated in one of its labor contracts — then not passing on the rate increase would make it harder to move other employees toward that goal. It also could complicate future labor negotiations, Eliason said, as well as cause employees to be hit with a larger increase later on.

"I understand Lenny's position, and I don't disagree with it," Adkins said, but due to the low wages paid to county workers and the difficult economic times, Adkins said he felt the rate increase should not be passed on to employees. Commissioner Chris Chmiel suggested a compromise — pass on half the increase, and let the county absorb the other half.

Chmiel and Adkins voted for that action, with Eliason voting against it.