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County saves nearly $1 million on insurance



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Sarah Schauf/Regional News. (click for larger version)
July 16, 2013 | 01:20 PM
ELKHORN — Taxpayers will save nearly a million dollars when the county changes how it provides its employees' health insurance.

However, the 790 county employees enrolled in the insurance and their families will now face higher deductibles, larger out-of-pocket maximums and are responsible for more expenses.

During the board's July meeting it approved its 2014 plan for employee health insurance on a 8-3 vote with supervisors Jerry Grant, Rick Stacey and Carl Redenius opposing the change.

Those supervisors supported switching to the state health insurance plan, which Grant said would have saved the county $3 million in 2014. However, the state plan didn't include Aurora directly in its coverage.

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Aurora is responsible for 52 percent of the county's health insurance claims, said Dale Wilson, the county payroll and benefit manager. Wilson said that Mercy accounted for about 20 to 25 percent of the employees' claims

Since fall 2012 the county has been examining how it provides its employees health insurance and searching for ways to reduce costs.

Wilson said the county asked for bids from health insurance providers. However, it only received one bid, which Wilson described as "not competitive."

The county also compared its health insurance policy to the coverage provided in similar counties. Wilson said Walworth County was providing better insurance than those counties.

"This will put us more in the middle, to maybe even below middle," Wilson said. "There are definitely counties that have better insurance, and by better I mean lower deductibles, lower out of pockets."

The county offers two tiers for its health insurance. The first tier cost more, but has a lower deductible. The second-tier is considered a high deductible insurance plan. That insurance plan includes a $750 county contribution to individuals and a $1,500 contribution to families for their health savings accounts.

Walworth County Supervisors can purchase their own health insurance directly from the board under the county's health insurance plan.

The county doesn't contribute anything to the supervisor's insurance if they choose to purchase it. County employees pay between 7 and 12 percent of their insurance costs.

Wilson said there are 790 employees covered by the county's health insurance, which includes 528 employees who receive family coverage.

There are an additional 103 retirees, who receive health insurance benefits. There are nearly 900 full-time employees in Walworth County, but some don't receive health insurance.

State plan

The state health plan is available to local municipalities. Grant said at the meeting that if the county board would adopt that plan, it would save about $3 million.

"It is a different type of plan, it is an HMO instead of a PPO," Wilson said."It would be a big shift from what are employees are used to."

He said the state plan does offer some PPOs, but those are more expensive, for both the county and its employees. He also said the employees could have received coverage from Aurora, but it would have been significantly more expensive for them.

Wilson said the plan would have saved the county money. However, he disagreed with Grant on the amount.

The state could add a surcharge when a new municipality joins the plan, Wilson said. Wilson said it was likely that the county would have been charged a surcharge.

"We have, in our population, with 790 lives on the population, with some of those being retirees there are some significant issues in a limited part of our population," Wilson said. "On average I would say we are a healthy population, but we do have some larger claimaints that would raise some concerns."

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