Insurance Increase For County Less Costly Than Expected

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The cost of providing health insurance to Athens County government employees in 2015 will go up less than projected, but will still cost significantly more than this year.

At their meeting Tuesday, the county commissioners formally accepted the rates issued by its insurer, the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio. Still to be decided is how much of the increase will be passed along to employees.

Originally, the consortium projected a 15 percent increase, or 13.5 percent if the commissioners increased the caps on employee out-of-pocket expenses, which they did at a July meeting. The actual increase for 2015 turned out to be 11.3 percent, which County Commission President Lenny Eliason said amounts to a $467,734 increase in cost.

The county offers a two-tier plan, with the lower-cost plan having higher deductibles.

On the higher plan, the monthly cost of single coverage will go up $64.71 to a new amount of $638.88, while the family plan will increase by $170.55 to a new figure of $1,684.03.

On the lower plan, the monthly cost of single coverage will increase by $61.54 to a new level of $607.63, while family coverage will go up by $162.21 to a new amount of $1,601.70.

The county picks up about 85 percent of the cost of the lower plan and about 82 percent of the cost of the higher plan, according to Eliason, with employees paying the rest.

Before the end of November the commissioners will need to decide how much of the cost increase to pass along to employees.

Last year when the county faced an increase in health insurance costs, Commissioner Charlie Adkins proposed that the county budget absorb the increase and not pass it on to employees, but Eliason objected. Commissioner Chris Chmiel then proposed a compromise in which the county would pick up half the increase and rest would be passed on to employees. That was approved 2-1, with Eliason voting against it.

At Tuesday's meeting, Adkins said the cost of health insurance is more of a burden to the county's lower-paid employees than it is for the county's higher wage earners.

"I just struggle with that," Adkins said, adding that he'd like to see the county come up with a scale that would have the higher-wage employees pay more for their insurance coverage than the lesser-paid workers. Adkins said he also thinks officeholders should pay more.

Eliason said the higher-paid employees tend to be those who have worked for the county the longest and have the greatest experience, and therefore provide more value to county government. He also indicated he thinks the higher-paid workers would object to paying more than other workers.

"What you want to try to do is very difficult," Eliason told Adkins, "but I think you're going to create more animosity than you are good will."

Other than accepting the rates, no further insurance actions were taken by the commissioners at Tuesday's meeting.