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Report predicts county’s future health-care costs

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:42 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 11:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
This chart within the 16-page report submitted by Bernie Lowe and Associates breaks down which provisions in health-care reform will affect Union County. It also predicts the county will pay an additional $500,000 for employee health care by 2018.

Union County Supervisor Dennis Brown hit the nail on the head last month when he said in a public meeting there is “no sense insulating people from the reality that health-care costs are going up.”

Proof of that came Monday when Bernie Lowe and Associates — the county’s employee benefit consultant — issued a 16-page report which predicts the county’s health-care costs through 2018.

That report shows — largely because of provisions in health care reform— the cost of the county’s health insurance is expected to rise about 7 percent each year through 2018. What does that mean in terms of actual dollars?

Currently, the county budgets about $16,000 for each employee’s family plan. The study predicts that number will rise to at least $22,000 by 2018.

“The purpose of this report is to serve as an educational piece,” said Skip Lowe, president of Bernie Lowe and Associates of Ankeny. “And, by 2018, (the county) is looking at a-half million dollars or more (in healthcare costs) that the county is going to have to budget for. You are not being picked on. We are just applying trends to your plan, and keeping you informed so you can make decisions.”

Lowe said the good news is, the county’s health-insurance reserve fund is in much better shape than it was two years ago under its former self-funded plan. Lowe said savings from changing health care plans, as well as, additional money in the reserved fund — which is estimated at $300,000 — will help lessen the blow of future health-care costs.

Pay or play

The report also explains the “pay or play” portion of health care reform meaning the county can play — continue offering health insurance to county employees and abide by the provisions OR not offer health insurance to county employees, pay a penalty and allow employees to purchase their insurance with a defined contribution from the county or completely their own.

The report has a cost breakdown to “pay or play” so the county can best compare what county officials would like to do in the future.

At one point during the presentation Monday, Lowe advised the board health-care reform is here to stay, costs will inevitably go up and and the only way to keep health-care costs down in the county and across the United States is for the population to become healthier.

“Health care reform in its (original) thought process was to try and engage the consumer to be a better decision maker for their own health,” Lowe said. “That’s what this law is about — rewarding people for good behaviors. ... If you get your checkup, you get to keep your gravy plan. If you don’t, sorry you made a decision ... and you’re going to have to pay more for your health insurance. That’s the reality of this.”

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In other county news:

• County supervisors approved a $10,000 pass-through substance-abuse grant Monday.

Victoria Brammer with Creston’s Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) Coalition was in attendance and spoke to the board about what the coalition has done with the grant money in the past including holding mock house parties and mock accidents as teaching tools to deter students from using drugs and alcohol.

Brammer — also involved in the local Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter — reported increased participation in the chapter moving from only 30 members last year to 120 students this year. Brammer called this their greatest accomplishment to date.

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