Douglas County Commission approves employee health care plan; costs for county, workers will increase by 6.9%

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Douglas County Commissioners Nancy Thellman, left, Patrick Kelly, center, and Michelle Derusseau, right, listen to public comment during their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19 2020.

Douglas County will see an increase in costs for its employee health care plan, but the county administrator says it’s a better situation than what the county has experienced in the recent past.

The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday approved a health care plan with a 6.9% increase in county funding, about $580,000, bringing the county’s total contribution to just under $9 million. County employees’ contribution to the plan will also increase by 6.9%, which is about $154,000.

Despite the increased costs, County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said the county’s employees generally supported the plan, and she said the costs will be increasing by a lower amount than in the past. Plinsky told the Journal-World an increase between 5% and 8% is about the national average, while the total cost of the county’s employee health plan increased by more than that in each of the last two years.

“This is a pretty good renewal for us, considering the last couple of years,” Plinsky said during the meeting.

The plan is a one-year renewal with Trustmark that will begin on June 1 and last until May 31, 2021. County staff had recommended the plan over two other options. The first “baseline” plan offered a total cost increase of $906,000, about 8.5%, without any coverage changes. The other was the “option 2” plan, which offered a total cost increase of $655,200, about 6.1%, but would have increased the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum by a larger amount than the plan the commission chose.

In other business, the commissioners met with members of the Heritage Conservation Council to discuss the council’s past work and its future plans.

During the discussion, the council asked the county for an extra $15,000 of funding in the 2021 budget. However, the group said it understands the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed the economic outlook of the county.

Commission Chair Patrick Kelly said he appreciated their understanding of the situation. He said the commissioners are not in the position to consider the request just yet.

“It’s just too early,” Kelly said. “We’re going to have some tough decisions to make come budget time.”

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