Archive for Wednesday, April 24, 2013

No health premium hike for county employees

April 24, 2013


Employees of Douglas County will not have to pay a higher percentage of their health insurance premiums when the new plan year starts June 1.

County commissioners on Wednesday agreed to keep the contribution rates for both the county and its employees the same for the 2013-14 plan year, which means county employees will continue to enjoy more generous health benefits than many other workers in the region.

"I want to keep it that way," Commissioner Jim Flory, a Republican, said. "If there's an overall rate increase, employees may have to share in that. But I want to keep the ratio competitive."

County employees currently pay 7 percent of the premium for individual coverage, and 18 percent of the premium for family coverage. The county pays the balance of the premiums.

That compares to 16 percent of premiums paid by most government sector workers in the U.S., and 23 percent paid by employees in groups of 500 to 999 employees, according to a recent national survey by the consulting firm Mercer.

For Douglas County employees, the split works out to an average of $42 per month for single coverage, and $291 per month for family plans.

Douglas County expects to pay out almost $6 million in medical claims for its employees and their families in the current plan year. Next year, officials expect that to drop to about $5.6 million.

Commission Chairman Mike Gaughan said the health benefits partially offset the relatively low wages paid for some county jobs.

"We know that our starting salaries are very low and we have some challenges on the low end of our pay scale," said Gaughan, a Democrat.

Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said one thing that may need to change in future years is pharmaceutical coverage. She said that's because of the rising cost of certain specialty drugs, like those used to treat chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, HIV and rheumatoid arthritis.

"Thirty percent of what we spend goes to 11 people," Plinsky said. "There are medications that cost $2,000 a month, and their copay is $35."

One of the options the county may consider in future years is to raise the copay for certain classes of medications. "That's a way to not punitively hit everyone," Plinsky said.

In other business, commissioners approved traffic restrictions on certain township roads near Baldwin City due to increased traffic resulting from the temporary closure of a section of U.S. Highway 56.

The Kansas Department of Transportation has closed a 2.5-mile stretch of the highway to replace three bridges and improve an intersection in Baldwin City. That is forcing local traffic onto gravel township roads that are not designed for large volumes of traffic.

The restrictions include posting 30 mile per hour speed limit signs and prohibiting commercial vehicles on those roads. The county will also pay for dust treatments on those roads, with the anticipation that the state will reimburse the county for that cost.


overthemoon 4 years, 10 months ago

I wonder if a family with one child pays the same as a family with 5 kids. That has always really bothered me.

appleaday 4 years, 10 months ago

I'm less bothered by that, since children tend to use fewer high dollar services, than I am about people who are higher users of health care who pay the same premiums as others. People with type 2 diabetes, chronic heart disease, and lung disease who can control these conditions by making lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise, and smoking cessation instead use something like 60% of health care resources.

Janella Williams 4 years, 10 months ago

I have a disorder that is expensive. It was genetic. I did nothing to bring it on. I am otherwise a healthy person and I go to the gym 5 days a week, probably more than you do. I don't smoke, I eat fairly healthy (I love my Mt Dew!) So, because of my crappy luck, I should be punished? It must be nice to be you and perfectly healthy. Why don't you try just once to have a small amount of empathy and think of others. Not every sick person has brought their sickness upon themselves. And by the way an "appleaday" would not help me and my situation. Get off your high horse.

midwestmom 4 years, 10 months ago

How does the $3,600.00 family out of pocket compare with other entities? As to the $35.00 co-pay, that's misleading. That's $35.00 per prescription with some higher and some lower. How about the hassle of a constantly changing formulary that covers a prescribed medication one quarter and not the next? YES I AM GRATEFUL for our health & dental insurance, but it's not as 'plushy' as the article makes it sound....

Julie Jacob 4 years, 10 months ago

@Midwestmom- Why don’t you ask Sarah about the $3600 out of pocket, I’m sure she has that information. I’ve spoken with many friends who are employed in corporations is similar employee size, their coverage month is much more expensive and had less coverage, greater deductibles and NO pharmacy. That $35 co pay you are complaining about probably costs the county in excess of $150 per month, have you bothered to look?

I am grateful for our health benefits and am proud at how the administration is striving to keep the employee’s share down. Thank you Sarah, Craig, Kari and Commissioners.

akt2 4 years, 10 months ago

A person really needs to know what their coverage is. Here are some things to consider: Am I allowed any basic office visits or do I pay out of pocket until my deductible is met? What kind of diagnostic testing will it cover? Does that count towards deductible first? Does my insurance cover physical, occupational or speech therapy? Does my insurance cover durable medical equipment? (walkers, crutches, etc). There are so many things that some insurances don't pay, or won't pay until you have paid thousands out of pocket. It's a racket.

Paul Silkiner 4 years, 10 months ago

That's my money your wasting. Government employees should not get perks like these, they should deal with regular market forces instead of getting a public subsidy...............on my back! Next time, kiss me first.

Alceste 4 years, 10 months ago

Why are both County employees and City of Lawrence employees not members of the pool that State of Kansas employees are in? Why do both the City and County plans need to be better, with more extensive coverage; less costly premiums and co-pays, etc.? If the County and the City each participated in the very same plan state of Kansas workers are in, how much money would both the County and the City save?

City and County staff both require and have earned health insurance benefits. However, why those benefits need to exceed what the "common" state of Kansas worker receives is simply a mystery.

Too, why doesn't Lawrence and Douglas County have residency requirements? You work for Douglas County, you need to live in Douglas County. You work for the City of Lawrence, you need to reside with the City of Lawrence city limits.

Finally, Lawrence needs to enact an earnings tax such that if you're lucky enough to brown nose your way into employment you get to pay a 1% earnings tax.....and there is no reason this concept can't also be placed on county employees. Both City and County workers have had it far too good when compared to state workers who year in and year out receive not dime one in pay increases and who have seen their health benefits deteriorate as well as their own employment security. Parity across City, County, and State employment.

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