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County health-care rates may not increase

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 10:54 a.m. CDT

Union County Board of Supervisors welcomed some good news in regard to their health-insurance renewal rates during Monday’s meeting.

Current predictions show there will not be an increase in the renewal rates for the 2015 fiscal budget.

“The mood is of exuberance, but not irrational,” said Skip Lowe of Bernie Low and Associates, the county’s employee benefit consultant. “We are in a good place right now and we are much more equipped for the future.”

Supervisor Chairman Dennis Brown said while the numbers look great, they are waiting to see the final figures before proceding with the budget.

“Even with that good of odds, something can always go wrong,” Brown said.

No increases means Union County would not have to dip into the reserve funds to help lessen the blow of health-care costs. The reserves are currently an estimated $300,000.

“The nice thing about leaving money in that reserve, now you can off set future costs, midigating any increase,” Lowe said.

In October, Lowe met with supervisors and gave a conservative forecast of about an 8 percent increase in health-insurance renewal rates.

Since Lowe was predicting so far out from fiscal year 2015, he said he used historical trends and calculated inflation rates to figure the 8 percent increase. Lowe also compensated for new laws that go into effect from health-care reform in the Affordable Care Act.

In Monday’s meeting, Lowe said he believes his updated estimate — with no increase for renewal rates — is where the supervisors should plan their budget.

Lowe praised county supervisors for being proactive with health care by implementing conservative and calculated practices to replenish the reserves that were almost completely depleted two years ago under the county’s former self-funded plan.

“Even though he is very gracious and gives us the credit, we count on our expert a lot,” said Supervisor Ron Riley at Monday’s meeting. “We are going to enjoy the good times while they are here.”

Lowe said the county’s attention to preventative care services has helped keep its employees healthier, which means the likelihood of satisfying the deductible is much lower and the reserves can grow.

Health-insurance plans

Union County offers three health-insurance plans for about 70 employees.

Those on plan B or plan C contribute 6.4 percent for health insurance, bringing in an estimated $1,234 annually toward the plan.

A majority of the county employees are on plan D — a plan with a higher deductible, but no employee contribution.

Brown said in the future there may be a discussion for employees on plan D to start contributing, but several factors including the budget, union negotiations and enrollment will all have to be considered before supervisors decide if there will be a change.

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