Health costs to climb for county workers

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

Lee County employees face boosts in health insurance costs and possible financial restrictions on doctors and facilities as a Feb. 1 insurance renewal deadline approaches.

County supervisors were told Monday that insurance claims surpassed premium income by more than $30,000 last year. Additional costs ran the underwriting loss to $194,000, said George Eppl, representing the county’s health insurance carrier.

Without changes, the county would see premium costs climb 29 percent in the coming year, Eppl said. For instance, the premium for individual coverage would rise from $181 a month per person to $234. Family coverage, paid by the employee, would climb from the additional $212 a month now to $273, officials said.

Eppl proposed three options, all involving membership in Health Link, a preferred provider program. The program boosts the insurer’s share of payments when clients use doctors and hospitals that are members of the Health Link system.

Under the recommended plan, deductibles would remain at $200 for individuals and $400 for a family while the carrier would pay 80 percent of Health Link-associated bills up to $5,000. All costs above $5,000 are covered. If patients used non-Health Link services, the insurer would pay only 70 percent of the approved cost up to $5,000.

That would mean that an employee could pay up to $500 more each year by failing to use Health Link providers.

Premiums under the recommended plan would climb about 13 percent, Eppl said.

“This I think is the most attractive option for the county,” he said. “Most of the doctors are in Health Link here in this area.”

“Your claims have gone up a lot in the last year and we’re trying to do something to get them under control.”

Other options included increasing the family deductible to $800 and cutting non-Health Link payments to 65 percent of the cost, or holding deductibles at the current level while reducing payments for nonparticipating costs to 65 percent. The first option would hold the premium hike to about 6 percent while the latter would raise the cost a few percentage points higher.

Life insurance coverage and premiums would remain the same, with workers being insured for up to $20,000 based on annual salary.

Supervisors took the issue under advisement.

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