Commissioners vote Aug. 5

County health insurance sessions continue this week

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Coweta County staff have put together proposals for future health insurance coverage for employees and retirees, and the Coweta County Board of Commissioners is set to vote on changes at the Aug. 5 commission meeting.

Informational meetings for employees and retirees were held last week and continue this week.

Meetings will be Monday at 9 a.m. at the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office training room, 2 p.m. in the county commission chambers, and 4 p.m. at the Powell Expo Center. The last two meetings will be Wednesday, at 9 a.m. at Coweta Fire Station One on Turkey Creek Road and at 2 p.m. at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.

The new proposal offers current employees a choice of three health insurance plans. Retirees over age 65 will receive Medicare supplement plans, which provide coverage, for the most part, with no deductibles, co-pays or coinsurance, except for prescription drug costs. Retirees under age 65 will continue on the county plan until reaching 65. The county will pay the plan premium for retirees with at least 25 years of service, and spouses of retirees with 35 years of service. Spouses of retirees with 25 years of service will pay the employee premium for their insurance.

The county will pay the full cost for the supplemental plan for retirees with 35 years of service and their spouses. Spouses of retirees with 25 years of service will have to pay 25 percent of the cost of the supplement plan. The 25 percent would be $93.83 under current rates. Retirees would also be required to pay Medicare Part B, which is currently $104.90 a month. That requirement exists under the current plan, as well.

The proposals were outlined in letters sent to all employees and retirees.

A major change announced in the letter is that the county will no longer cover health care costs for retirees hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015. Anyone hired after 2014 who retires before the age of 65 would be eligible to continue paying the employee rate for insurance until they became eligible for Medicare, under the proposal.

The county has seen health care costs rise in the past several years, but county employees and retirees haven’t seen their costs increase, according to the letter, which was signed by Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn and County Administrator Michael Fouts.

The increased health care costs “resulted in the use of approximately $700,000 in unbudgeted funds in 2013 alone, and 2014 costs are projected to increase an additional $1.25 million,” Blackburn and Fouts say in the letter.

“It’s clear that this is unsustainable without making comprehensive changes to our health care benefits.”

The changes were first discussed at a commissioners work session May 29. Only one proposed insurance plan was discussed. Employees would have seen only slightly higher premiums, but much higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Several employees and retirees spoke out at the work session and at later commission meetings.

The three plans in the new proposal include one with significantly higher premiums (double for families and almost triple for individual employees), without higher deductibles. The out of pocket max will rise, and co-insurance goes from the current 10 percent to 20 percent.

Another option would have slightly higher premiums with a doubling of the deductible and out-of-pocket max.

The third option is a health savings account, with lower premiums, but higher deductibles and out of pocket maximums. The county would contribute $500 to an individual’s account or $1,000 to a family account.

Starting in 2015, prescription costs are included in the deductible and out-of-pocket max.

“We have researched many different options and received input and ideas from employees and retirees, with primary goal of trying to preserve health care benefits at the lowest possible cost for all Coweta employees and retirees, while remaining fiscally responsible to the taxpayers,” Blackburn and Fouts say in the letter.

“We hope that health care trends stabilize and future changes are minor,” they continue. “However, given what we have experienced and what the market is predicting, annual changes to our health care benefits are likely.”

Employees and retirees are encouraged to contact administration staff or the Community and Human Resources department if they have any questions or concerns prior to the information sessions.



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