Sullivan may change insurance providers

J. H. Osborne • Sep 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s employees could have a new health care insurance provider Jan. 1.

The Sullivan County Commission’s Insurance Committee voted Tuesday to recommend switching from CIGNA to Blue Cross Blue Shield (Network S).

Members of the Insurance Committee, chaired by Commissioner Joe Herron, said they will present the plan to the commission’s three primary committees over the next couple of weeks and will ask for a waiver of commission rules on Oct. 20 so the issue can come for a vote on first reading.

Along with CIGNA’s renewal offer, several companies were asked to submit offers to provide employee health insurance for calendar year 2009 — with no change in benefits.

CIGNA offered to renew at a nearly 29 percent rate increase — or more than $1.8 million for the year.

Blue Cross Blue Shield offered to provide the same coverage for an increase of about 3.5 percent over the current cost — or about $222,000 for the year.

The county’s budget is based on a fiscal year that runs from July 1 of this year to June 30 of next year — so only half the increase will have to be funded during the current budget cycle.

Commissioner Linda Brittenham asked if the committee needed to decide where the funding would come from to pay for the increased cost.

Herron said it would have to come from the county’s fund balance.

Commissioner Cathy Armstrong said there was another option — pass the whole increase, or at least more of it, on to the employees.

Armstrong suggested the county could consider raising the percentage employees pay for their insurance premiums.

Currently, county employees pay 12.8 percent of their premium costs, and the county picks up the rest.

That figure was increased last year — a move championed then by Armstrong — from 10.7 percent.

Last year’s increase could have been higher, with talk of raising the employee share to 20 percent in early discussions, but was lowered to a recommended increase to 15 percent by the Insurance Committee.

The full commission eventually settled on the increase to 12.8 percent.

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