The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

September 24, 2013

Anderson County Commissioners OK 2014 health plan for employees

By MARY RAINWATER
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Anderson County Commissioners approved a two-option health insurance plan for county employees on Monday, also adjusting the definition of a part-time employees in regard to hours worked.

During a previous meeting, concerned county employees addressed their concerns about rising costs of the county’s health insurance plan — the 2014 plan had not yet been approved by the court at the time — citing that increased deductions from paychecks would likely be a hardship on employees, especially those with families.

The current health care plan includes a co-pay of $30, a deductible of $500/$750 (network/out of network), county insurance contribution of 80/60 (percent, in network/out of network), county insurance max of $2,500/$5,000 (in-network/out of network), an ER co-pay of $100 and prescription plan of 10/25/40.

The rates for the current plan (costs to employees) include: Employee only, (paid by the county); employee plus one child, employee plus two children and employee plus three or more children, $90.20 per month; employee and spouse, $198.30; and employee and family, $289.

Approved Plan No. 1 includes a a co-pay of $30; a deductible of $750/$1,000 (network/out of network); county insurance contribution of 80/60 (percent, in network/out of network); county insurance max of $3,000/$6,000 (in-network/out of network); an ER co-pay of $150; and prescription plan of 10/35/50.

Employee rates for this plan include: Employee only, $50; employee plus one child, $150;  employee plus two children, $200; employee plus three or more children, $250;  employee and spouse, $450; and employee and family, $550.

Approved Plan No. 2 includes a co-pay of $35; a deductible of $2,500/$7,500 (network/out of network); county insurance contribution of 80/60 (percent, in network/out of network); county insurance max of $4,000/$8,000 (in-network/out of network); an ER co-pay of $150; and prescription plan of 50 percent/50 percent.

Employee rates for this plan include: Employee only, $50; employee plus one child, $150;  employee plus two children, $150; employee plus three or more children, $150;  employee and spouse, $260; and employee and family, $350.

“One plan offers higher rates and lower deductibles, while the second option offers lower rates with higher deductibles,” County Auditor Karin Smith told the Herald-Press after Monday’s meeting. “The county will continue to contribute $650 a month per employee — a total of $7,800 per employee per year.”

Upon approval of the 2014 budget, the country approved a two percent raise for all county employees, which according to  Smith, will just about cover the $50 a month rate increase for individual employees.

According to County Judge Robert Johnston, with the approved increases, the county will still only be breaking even on covering insurance costs of its employees.

“We did not think it was the right thing to do for the taxpayers to pay for the rising costs of health care for employees,” Johnston said previously. “Those costs are rising at a rapid rate. We are doing everything we can to keep the costs as low as we can.”

Precinct 2 Commissioner Rashad Q. Mims I  reported at a previous meeting that, as a self-insured entity, Anderson County puts a specified amount of money into a fund to cover insurance claims by county employees.

And in spite of warnings that the county needed to increase its per-employee premiums, past courts had made no moves to do so, he said.

 “We have fought to keep things down, and are still lower than Wal-mart warehouse (Wal-mart Distribution Center) and the prison (Texas Department of Criminal Justice),” Mims said. “We had to make a decision and we chose not to raise taxes in Anderson County.”

The new insurance rates go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, with employee sign ups beginning Oct. 1.

In a related action, the county approved changes to the definition of a part-time employee from less than 40 hours a week to less than 30 hours per week, per new Obamacare requirements.

Also on Monday, commissioners:

• APPROVED reports from county officials, a budget amendment and bills.

• APPROVED a tax abatement contract between Anderson County and Apex Bethel Energy Center LLC for the value of improvements to be placed on property in the established reinvestment zone for the purpose of operating a compressed air energy storage facility.

• RECEIVED District Judges’ Order setting salaries for County Auditor’s Office and Court Reporters and order that they be paid.

• APPROVED the transfer of a 2001 Jeep Cherokee from the Precinct 4 Constable’s office to the sheriff’s office.

• APPROVED the appointment of Gary Douglas to serve as a director on the Neches & Trinity Valleys Groundwater Conservation District Board beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

• APPROVED inter-local agreements with the City of Elkhart for Precinct 1 and with the City of Frankston for Precinct 3.

• APPROVED the sheriff and constable fees for 2014.

• PRESENTED the Anderson County Annual Road Report for Precincts 1-4.

• TOOK NO ACTION after meeting in executive session to discuss personnel matters.

• TABLED allowing the county judge to sign an amendment to the agreement between Union Pacific Railroad and the City of Palestine.

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Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at mrainwater@palestineherald.com