Almost two hours was spent by the McHenry County Human Services and Finance & Audit Committees discussing proposals for next year’s health coverage for non-union employees.
At issue was about a $20 million budget item.
Under proposals outlined by Cheryl Chukwu, those covered directly by the County benefit plan would cost taxpayers about $300,000 more than this year.
(Unionized Operating Engineers are not in the County plan. The County writes a check for about $750,000 a year to the union health benefit plan.)
Without the suggested changes, costs were estimated to increase about 11%.
So, what are the suggested changes, which the Human Services Committee has already approved?
New non-union employees would be required to have only one option.
They would be put in a high deductible plan.
The first $2,500 would be paid by the employee.
However, for the time being, there would be $500 given to a single employee, and $1,000 given to a family Health Savings Account.
There would also be an accident plan backup plan to be paid for by the County.
One goal is to increase the employees knowledge of what health care benefits cost and how they can help control them.
The goal of the attempt to migrate employees to the high deductible plan is to increase their awareness of what health care benefits cost.
For example, if an MRI is needed, there are various places where one can get one.
They are not all priced the same.
One organization may change $5,000 and another charge $500 for the same test.
The only other change is for doctor’s visits for HMO members.
They will go from $10 to $20.
Employees would continue to pay 15% of the cost for those without dependents and 20% of the cost for those with dependents.
The average cost of health coverage for County employees is $17,500, according to Human Services Committee member Michael Rein.
The average health care in the country is about $9,000, he said.
“We really have to start changing what we do,” he said.
The current PPO plan for 2017 will cost about $34,480 for family coverage.
The High Deductible Health Plan, which is also a PPO plan, will cost about $23,970 for family coverage.
Finance Committee member Chuck Wheeler, an insurance agent, observed,
“We can’t discriminate against fat people.
“Smokers are people, too.
“The current [Federal] Administration comes in and says, ‘We’re all equal.'”
Also in play is the possibility that the Obamacare “Cadillac Tax” will come into play in the future.
Diane Evertsen said she did not see a plan to deal with that four years from now.
Donna Kurtz pointed out that in spite of the high cost of coverage, “We have a very unhealthy population.”
She pointed to high rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“We are getting gold plated prices, but getting substandard health,” Kurtz continued.
“Our taxpayers don’t have anything like this.”
Wheeler pointed out that most employers look at the lowest priced plan as the “base plan.”
Those wishing higher coverage have to “buy up.”
County Administrator Peter Austin said he hopes forty current employees will migrate to this high deductible plan. He believes the plan will be so attractive that union employees will want to participate in future years.
“We can’t continue to have a PPO plan that costs $29,000 a year,” Austin explained. “It is more than the Cadillac Tax.
“Our program is better than 90% of the plans in the whole country.”
“This puts us on a path for be sustainability,” added Human Resources Committee Chairman John Jung.
“You have to start somewhere or you’re going to be like the State and legislature and keep giving benefits you can’t pay for,” he added.