Coweta Commission

Changes to employee health insurance OK'd

by Sarah Fay Campbell

Changes to Coweta County’s health insurance for employees and retirees were approved unanimously Tuesday by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.

The changes for current employees take effect Jan. 1, 2015. Changes for current retirees go into effect Oct. 1.

Employees will have a choice of three different plans come Jan 1. One keeps premiums near the same cost, with much higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Another features increased premiums but a similar deductible. Out-of-pocket costs are higher but not as high as with the high-deductible plan. The third is a “health savings account” with high deductibles, a low premium, and a yearly contribution by the county of $500 for individuals or $1,000 for families.

Retirees who are under 65 get the same choice of plans. Those who are eligible for Medicare will have to pay a Medicare premium, which is currently required but not always enforced, and will get a Medicare supplement plan with no deductible or co-pays except for prescription drugs.

Medicare-eligible spouses of retirees with 25 to 34 years of service will pay 25 percent of the monthly Medicare supplement plan premium. Pre-65 spouses of retirees with 25 to 34 years of service pay the employee rate for their health insurance. Spouses of those with 35 years of service get the same benefits as the retirees.

The county won’t offer retiree health coverage for anyone hired after Jan. 1, 2015.

Other changes include a fourth tier for speciality prescription drugs, and requiring employees who use certain medications to go through “step therapy” to see if less expensive drugs will work for them.

These likely won’t be the last changes to the county’s health insurance coverage, and there was discussion of setting up an employee advisory board to have input on future changes.

“I think the advisory board could and would be very beneficial,” said Commissioner Tim Lassetter.

Meetings were held with employees to discuss the proposed changes and there were a number of good comments, Lassetter said.

Those comments led to some tweaks in the premiums for the different plans.

Other recommendation made by employees that could be considered in the future included offering spousal coverage at 30 or 32 years of service, additional Medicare supplement plan, and line of duty death benefit health coverage.

Chairman Bob Blackburn said he’d like to see someone from every county department on the advisory board.

“It’s definitely a good idea to embrace more communication with all departments,” said County Administrator Michael Fouts.

Blackburn asked staff to also look at a 30-year retirement tier.

That’s something staff considered, but there wasn’t enough time to get that done for this change, according to Fouts.

The changes are expected to save the county approximately $1.2 million in the next year.

After the vote, Sheriff Mike Yeager asked to speak. “I’m all for the advisory board,” he said. “Thank you for all the work that was done on this.”

“I appreciate everyone’s input,” said Commissioner Rodney Brooks. “From the employees to the staff, everyone working together.”

People don’t normally like going through such a change but “hopefully next year we’ll look back and say we’re glad we did it as one big family and not just as individuals,” Brooks said.

He thanked employees who gave input. “We did listen … it was very beneficial to me."

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