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Commissioners add premiums, cut spouse coverage from county insurance plan

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By Brian Slattery

BOLIVIA — Brunswick County commissioners approved a $1.5 million insurance plan for employees for 2014-15.

But it will be the last year spouses can be added to the county plan.

Spouses already under the insurance plan will be grandfathered in, but those who are not signed up with the program by July 1 will be excluded.

The new insurance plan also added a yearly premium for employees, their spouses and children.

Commissioners and county staff met in two workshops to explore various options for providing insurance while keeping rising costs down.

In those discussions, eliminating spouses from the plan was proposed as the most affordable option.

After those workshops, the administrative staff received input from employees who said they would like to see the insurance program remain as close to the current plan as possible, County Manager Ann Hardy said during the commissioners’ meeting Monday night, March 17.

Hardy said the staff also reviewed the county’s 2014-2015 projected revenues and departmental budget requests to decide how much could be spent on the plan.

The administration recommended retaining the current plan design, with changes increasing primary doctor office visits from $20 to $30 and specialist visits from $40 to $50.

The premiums employees will pay start with $40 per month for only the employee.

For the employee and spouse, they would pay $447, an increase of $130 per month.

For an employee plus a child or children would cost $287, increasing $80 per month.

An employee and family would cost $581, an increase of $130 per month.

Hardy said the total cost to the county is $1,584,336 annually, with $1,397,071 coming from the general fund budget.

The additional premiums passed on to employees total $815,640 per year.

Hardy told the board members the plan is affordable for 2014-2015, but will need yearly changes to the employee premiums, deductibles and co-payments to be sustainable.

Hardy also recommended that the county close the plan to the addition of any employee spouses as of July 1.

“Employees asked for one last option this year,” Hardy said. “If there is a divorce or a new marriage, they would not be added after July 1.”

If a currently insured spouse leaves the plan for any reason, he or she will not be eligible for the plan in the future.

Spouses insured as of June 30 would remain eligible to participate in the plan under the current plan conditions, but no new spouses would be eligible to participate in the plan.

Commissioner Scott Phillips asked if the county clinic is an option for employees to avoid new premiums.

Hardy said the clinic is no cost to employees. Children of employees can also go to the clinic or heath department at no cost from infancy until they are 15.

Phillips also asked how the changes would affect retirees.

Hardy said retired employees are included at no cost but retirees’ dependents would have to pay the cost increase.

“With no good solution, this is probably about as good a solution a we will find,” Commissioner Frank Williams said.

“I wish we could give it to (the employees) for free but we have to look out for the employees and we also have to look out for the people who put us here,” Phillips said.

Commissioners approved the new insurance rates unanimously, 4-0. Commissioner Marty Cooke was absent from the meeting.

Former jail medical provider reimbursed

After about an hour of deliberation Monday night, board members came out of closed session and voted to pay more than $260,000 in costs to the former jail medical contractor.

County Attorney Huey Marshall said Correct Care Solutions provided medical services in the Brunswick County Detention Facility for 18 months, from July 2010 through December 2011.

Marshall said the contractor provided a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner at the jail but if an inmate’s medical requirements went beyond the in-house provider’s ability to treat him or her, the contractor made a referral to an outside medical provider.

Correct Care paid the costs at the time, but didn’t request reimbursement until recently.

The total amount for reimbursement for the services provided was $260,407.

“I am confident this amount is owed (to Correct Care),” Marshall said.

Commissioners agreed unanimously, 4-0, to a budget amendment to pay the costs out of the general fund.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.