Health and Welfare Committee reaffirms need to revamp health insurance for county employees

Published 8:05 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Tuesday evening signaled another presentation from a potential source of new health insurance for county employees: Five Points Insurance. This time, however, presenter James Smith made predictions of what costs will look like in five years, saying the time to act and make a change is now as opposed to later.

“The national trend is a 6.5 percent increase in costs each year,” Smith said. “We predict a cumulative $2.7 million increase in costs over the next five years.”

The Health and Welfare Committee has been working on replacing the existing health insurance plan for Carter County employees for at least the past several meetings, and Five Points’ predictions, numbers Smith said they gleaned from information the county provided them, point to the urgency of the problem.

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The board said even if the increasing costs end this year, it will “swallow” the recent pay raises the commission recently approved.

“You are going to have to do some risk management,” he said. “Health plans are a balancing act between premiums and out-of-pocket costs. […] The only way to [lower overall costs] is to get claims down.”

In other business, the committee also discussed the possibility of implementing a “Sick Bank,” into which county employees can deposit spare sick days for other employees to use.

Currently, county employees can only donate sick days specifically to other employees.

The board said they had discussed the possibility of such a program in the past, but ultimately decided against it due to abuse concerns.

“We do not have a centralized HR here,” Commissioner Mike Hill said.

They said this lack of a centralized HR staff would make determining which illnesses or injuries would qualify an employee to withdraw from the sick day bank a complicated process.

Despite this concern, the committee voted to continue exploring the possibility of implementing a sick day bank in the future.

Towards the end, the committee discussed recent statistics about the opioid epidemic in Carter County, saying there were 91 reported deaths from opioid overdoses in the county last year.

County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said he “disputed” the number, saying the statistic did not accurately reflect the epidemic, referring to past conversations about autopsy reports listing opioids on cause of death reports when it did not always apply.