Sullivan committee finalizing proposal on health insurance

J. H. Osborne • Nov 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Coverage will continue under current provider CIGNA with a 35 percent increase in premium costs for the basic ‘silver’ level of coverage.

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission’s Insurance Committee will again meet in called session Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. to try and finalize a plan for employee health insurance for 2008.

Committee members, along with the insurance broker advising the county, have been talking up potential changes to the coverage during meetings of the commission’s three primary committees this week.

They’ve being doing so in anticipation of a full-commission vote on the issue on Nov. 19. But to date no formal resolution has been presented.

On Wednesday, Insurance Committee Chairman Sam Jones said the group will meet next Tuesday to hash out the final details of what they’ll recommend to the full commission. A resolution can then be drafted, Jones said.

He made the announcement after members of the commission’s Executive Committee questioned him about the lack of a written resolution.

Insurance Committee members have agreed on several key points they’ll recommend for full-commission approval:

•County employees will begin to pay 15 percent of the total premium costs for their coverage, up from 10.7 percent.

•Coverage will continue under current provider CIGNA — with a 35 percent increase in premium costs for the basic “silver” level of coverage.

•That 35 percent increase was negotiated down from a potential 65 percent increase — by reduction of benefits available to employees and family members covered by the plan. Some co-pays are going up, as are deductibles and the maximum out-of-pocket.

•A different coverage category for employees who extend coverage to only a spouse, versus for employees who extend coverage to no spouse but to one or more children. The two new categories will replace what is now a single “employee plus one” category. The move will mean a savings of a few dollars a month for those extending coverage to children but no spouse, and raise the monthly payments several dollars for those extending coverage to a spouse but no children.

But a resolution hasn’t been written yet because the group has not decided on some aspects of one portion of their plan, Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said.

It’s called a “high deductible/health savings account.”

It would be a new option for county employees and provide a lower premium cost — in exchange for a much higher deductible. It would be partnered with establishment of a health savings account for each employee — with the employee making contributions as well as Sullivan County. Any money not used each year would accrue in the employee’s account from year to year.

The topic of employee health insurance is next on the agenda of the commission’s Budget Committee, set to meet at 7 p.m. tonight on the second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse.

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