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County health insurance cost increasing

By DAVID TEWES
Oct. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.


OTHER CHANGES

The county will do away with separate leave for vacation and illness.

It will adopt a paid-time-off system, a pot of days employees can use for sick leave or vacation.

The county will also increase the county match for employee retirement from 1-to-1 to 1-to-1.5. For each dollar contributed by the worker, the county will chip in $1.50.

Rising health care costs mean Victoria County employees and the taxpayers will pay more for worker health insurance in 2011.

The commissioners court, acting on a committee recommendation, voted Monday to increase the monthly premium $50 for an employee only. That will increase the premium to $150 a month.

An employee plus one dependent will pay $100 a month more total, bringing the monthly premium to $357.

The county taxpayers will pick up the cost difference of $366 a month for each employee and $428 a month for an employee and one dependent.

County Commissioner Gary Burns said rising insurance rates are a continuing problem.

"Look at private insurance and the way it's going," he said. "I still feel like we have a better plan and cheaper rate."

Burns attributed the increase to several major claims and said there is no way to plan for those. The insurance plan is about $700,000 in the red, and the increase in employee premiums still won't cover that.

"But we're trying to take it as easy as possible and ease into these changes," Burns said. "We're trying to keep our costs as low as possible."

Joyce Dean, the county's director of Administrative Services, said the increases will take effect Jan. 1. She said the county health plan includes a free clinic available to all county employees.

"If you're not feeling well, as an example, you go in and see the nurse practitioner, and she provides medical service to you," Dean said. "She's highly qualified."

The clinic does not offer X-rays or speciality services. Employees needing more than what the clinic can provide are referred to a medical provider.

"You don't give up the medical relationship with your local medical provider because there are some things we cannot do," she said.

Besides saving the employee the cost of a doctor's visit, the clinic also offers some medical supplies such as those needed by diabetics.

Dean said the county has found that offering the clinic helps cut down in the long run on health insurance claims, and that helps keep down the cost to employees and taxpayers.

The clinic has been run by CareHere, but the county will take over the operation Nov. 1, she said. "We were able to determine that we can hire our own staff and set up a system ourselves and actually save quite a bit of money."

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