Jun 5, 2015

After string of good years, county’s insurance costs rise

The cost of insuring Park County’s 200 or so employees is going up — a lot.

Rising medical costs, a handful of serious health problems and new federal requirements will likely force the county to spend around $495,000 more to insure its employees in the coming fiscal year.

While it’s a significant jump — around 23.2 percent when compared to the current year — the county’s insurance consultant says the spike must be put in the broader context of how exceptionally well the insurance plan has performed in recent years.

Park County's health insurance costs are going up. File photo courtesy 401kcalculator.org
Even after the hike, Park County’s insurance expenses will have risen by an average of less than 2 percent per year since July 2012. That’s while other groups are seeing annual increases of somewhere between 7 and 12 percent, said Eric Deeg of USI Insurance Services.

“You’ve had a run of four-plus years of incredibly good claims experience and incredibly positive results from your wellness program,” Deeg told commissioners on May 12.

He described Park County as having outperformed basically everyone in recent years.

“In the health insurance world today — and I’ll be brutally honest — I don’t have groups performing like you are,” he said.

Commissioners brought Deeg on board in 2010 and he helped implement sweeping changes to the county’s then-sinking insurance plan. Commissioners put more money into the plan, raised employees’ deductibles and created a new focus on preventative care — like encouraging annual blood screenings.

“Whenever you think you've got everybody well and using the health plan correctly, the problem is you then have a claim from somebody that is totally healthy and unexpected,” said Eric Deeg, the county's insurance consultant.

The insurance plan has rebounded so well that commissioners were able to actually cut $260,000 from the plan last year and use the money elsewhere. However, Deeg said about a half-dozen county employees suffered serious medical problems since last June and claims outpaced funding by nearly $90,000. (The shortfall will be covered by a reserve account.)

“It’s an odd year, but I think the wellness program's doing the right things,” Deeg said, adding, “I always say, whenever you think you've got everybody well and using the health plan correctly, the problem is you then have a claim from somebody that is totally healthy and unexpected — and those things can happen.”

Complying with the federal Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, is also expected to cost the county.

In addition to roughly $36,000 in annual fees, the county is being required to offer insurance to part-time employees who work 30 or more hours a week.

Covering the handful of those employees is expected to cost the county around $115,000 this coming year, according to the clerk’s office.

Complying with Obamacare could cost the county around $150,000 in the coming year, in part because they're required to offer coverage to some part-time employees.

Commission Chairman Joe Tilden said the county could cut those employees’ hours back to 29 hours a week so as to avoid having to cover them in 2016-17, but he doesn’t know if the commissioners will do that.

Total funding for the insurance plan would total around $2.6 million for the coming year, under preliminary budget numbers.


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