Due in part to the recent federal health care reform bill passed by lawmakers, Anderson County employees will see a few tweaks to their health care plans in 2011.

After hearing from county insurance consultant Jerry Guy during their Tuesday meeting, county commissioners approved his recommended changes to the plan, including at $14 increase to medical insurance coverage and the removal of two prescription drugs from the approved drug list.

Guy’s report is presented to the court annually and reviews claim numbers and costs from the past year and uses those figures — and any new legislation — to forecast future costs.

“In the last 12 months, ending in July of 2010, insurance claims totaled $1.6 million — about $628 per employee,” Guy told commissioners. “Those numbers have actually dropped. Health care costs went up, but the claims went down. Drug claims, though, did go up.”

National health care reform mandates warranted the $14 increase in employee benefit costs, Guy said.

“I estimate a cost to the county to be about $2 million, which is a 1.74 percent increase from the current plan,” he said. “But your current revenue stream is adequate to cover that.”

Guy spent some time discussing the county prescription drug plan, urging the county to drop the name-brand drugs Nexium, an acid reducing drug, and non-drowsy antihistamines that are available generically and over the counter.

“The largest single drug prescribed to county employees is Nexium, with prescriptions running $100 a month,” Guy said. “Over the counter drugs, such as Prilosec, Zantac and their store equivalents do the same thing for a significantly reduced price.”

“The same is true for the non-drowsy antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtek,” he continued. “This would be a good year to communicate these facts about over the counter and generic equivalents to employees.”

According to Guy, the average rate for the use of generic substitutions for prescriptions is about 70 percent, but for Anderson County employees that rate is about 58 to 60 percent.

“For every percent of generic prescriptions used by employees, costs to the county increase about $10,000,” he explained. “So if the county increased its generic usage rate to 70 percent, that is about $120,000 in savings.”

Also during his report, Guy went over some of the health care reform requirements that commissioners will see in the next few years.

By 2014, he said, pre-existing condition rules will be eliminated as well as dollar limits on benefits. Beginning in 2011, dependents can be covered on insurance plans until the age of 27.

“By 2014, everyone will be required to have insurance,” he said. “The IRS has been charged with keeping track of that, and it will be noted on W2 forms beginning Jan. 1.

“Those who do not have insurance after the 2014 deadline will be fined.”

Also on Tuesday, commissioners:

• APPROVED going out for bids on a generator for the Slocum Water Supply Corporation, funded by a $178,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Texas Department of Rural Affairs.

• APPROVED the purchase of a Freightliner truck for Precinct 3 Road and Bridge for $8,500 from V&T Truck Center in Longview, pending inspection of the truck by Precinct 3 Commissioner Kenneth Dickson.

The truck, if OK’d by Dickson, will be used to replace the motor in the precinct’s current Freightliner truck, as well as for parts that may be needed in the future.

• APPROVED a temporary voting box relocation for Precinct 1, Box 1 from Palestine High School to Palestine Middle School. The change was made due to ongoing construction at PHS.

• APPROVED allowing Anderson County Legal Professionals to use the northeast corner of the courthouse square on Oct. 26 for its “Burger on the Square” event.

• APPROVED the purchase of a new audio communication system for the courthouse annex drive-through from R&W Services for a price not to exceed $767.25.

• APPROVED the Anderson County Annual Road Report for Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 4. As per the Texas Transportation Code, those reports will now be presented by the district attorney to the grand jury.

• ACKNOWLEDGED abandonment of an unnamed but platted road in the town of Neches subdivision and authorized the district attorney to draft a letter to reflect that acknowledgment.

• APPROVED participation in the Retiree Medical Program for 2011.

• APPROVED changes to the copier contracts for the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

• HEARD reports from county departments.

• APPROVED payment of bills.

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