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PE Weighs Insurance

PRINCE EDWARD – County Supervisors debated at length the merits of changing the health insurance plan for employees at their April 12 meeting before agreeing to switch the current plan options (Key

Advantage Expanded and Key Advantage 250) for Key Advantage 500 and Key Advantage 1000.

The difference will mean a higher deductible for those insured under the plan. It could also mean a potential long-term savings for those with families enrolled and a savings of about $90,000 for the County.

The proposal to switch coverage did not, however, have a smooth path to approval. Farmville District (101) Supervisor Howard Simpson first offered a motion that the current plan be approved; Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt proposed the change in a substitute motion.

Initially, it appeared that there would be a tie vote-with Gantt's substitute motion supported by fellow board members Jim Wilck, Robert “Bobby” Jones, and Charles McKay and opposed by Chairman William “Buckie” Fore and supervisors Simpson, Mattie Wiley and Howard “Pete” Campbell. (A tie vote defeats a substitute motion.) However, Gantt questioned whether Campbell could vote.

“You're on this plan,” Gantt commented at one point. “You can't vote on this.”

Campbell has health insurance through the county and pays the cost.

The question was directed to the County attorney James R. Ennis as to whether there was a conflict of interest. While Campbell pays his own costs, Gantt cited that should Campbell ever decide not to pay it, the County has to pay.

And that was a surprise to several board members, including Campbell.

“…First time I've heard that,” he commented.

That, County Administrator Wade Bartlett would offer, was stated when it was approved about a year or so ago.

Ennis noted, “I think either way it potentially has a financial impact on Mr. Campbell, either by increasing or decreasing the premium that he is paying out of pocket or by virtue of the fact that the plan is stated and- “

“OK, that being the case,” Fore said, “Pete, your vote doesn't count which makes the vote 4-3…Had it been a tie vote and your vote counted, the motion would have lost. Since your vote does not count, the motion carries.”

The County annually renews the health insurance plan and Bartlett noted that they looked at going out on different plans, but that it was not advantageous to the County to do that this year.

Traditionally, he also explained, they adopted Key Advantage Expanded and Key Advantage 250 as the plans available to employees and, traditionally, paid the single amount with the employee paying the difference between the dual and the family amount. (Bartlett had recommended leaving it as it is.)

Gantt, early in the discussion, asked how much it would save the county if they switched to the Key Advantage 500, and Bartlett said it would be approximately $90,000 (which also included Social Services).

Bartlett offered that there has been no pay raise since he arrived (July will mark four years) and last year was the first year there was a bonus, which was on average about 1.4-1.5 percent.

“We have asked more for our employees. There has been two retirements since I've been here, we have not replaced either one. We have another…out on considerable medical leave, we have not replaced that employee,” Bartlett said

He also cited that they've picked up a lot of work that once was contracted out.

Gantt asked if that $90,000 would alleviate “a lot of the problems you just mentioned?” He also suggested that the money could be used to expand services for citizens that they haven't been able to do.

Gantt also suggested the switch to the $500 deductible (which the Key Advantage 500 would do), or at least look at it, and “seriously step up with either the pay raise or the bonus or whatever we can do in the budget.”

Ennis highlighted that those in the family plan in the Key Advantage 500 that their deductible is $1,000.

“It's a $500 deductible, $1,000 for the whole family. So if you have three claims that are $500 each, it's only a thousand dollar deductible,” Gantt would comment.

“I rarely use the word only in front of a thousand dollars…if I'm gonna be paying,” Ennis also commented.

“I rarely use the word only in front of $90,000,” Gantt responded.

“I just want to understand…that's in addition to. The people who have family coverage are paying probably eight or so hundred dollars now out of pocket each month and that this will be an additional-another eight or nine hundred dollars worth of deductible that they will be required to pick up,” Ennis said.

“If they use it,” Gantt said.

And that's part of the problem, he went on to add, because the premium keeps going up because it's getting used so frequently.

“Now I'm not saying that's good, I'm not saying that's bad,” Gantt said.

“But it won't help you a bit if it's a catastrophic illness,” Ennis said. “A thousand dollars out of a $300,000 claim is nothing.”

Gantt agreed, adding, “And that's why I think you need to look at the big picture.”

The change (comparing the Key Advantage Expanded to the Key Advantage 500) brings the family costs (per month) down from $1,431 to $1,226, Gantt pointed out.

“So a family could actually save a little over $2,000 with this. This does one thing, it brings this health plan closer to the reality of what everybody else is having to deal with,” Gantt said.

Board members also discussed the option of picking up the $1,000 deductible. That may or may not be allowed.

“There are certain rules under this Key Choice 'cause it's quasi-governmental of what you can and can't do and I'd have to research that,” Bartlett said.

Gantt noted that when they polled county employees that “their biggest problem with this was the family part…my suggestion to y'all is figure out a way to go with a $500 deductible and see what you can do to help the families out.”

He offered that “you're killing yourselves when you're trying to do this and try to do the bonuses too…there's not enough room in there for everything.”

The three percent bonus for workers penciled in the proposed budget is projected to cost about $114,000.

Ms. Wiley was not in favor of changing the insurance. She reflected that if you have someone who has the insurance and are not making a lot of money and are paying the premium and-if they have to go to the hospital-have to pay another $500.

Those that want to take the $500 deductible, that's their choice, she assessed.

“But I think that, as the board, and we offer insurance, I think that it should be the way it is now with the lower deduction and let it be whatever employee that wants to take a higher deductible,” Ms. Wiley also said.

“Well, put the shoe on the other foot” Gantt said. “You don't work for the County, you're paying for your own policy, you take your kids to the hospital and you don't have insurance, but you're paying taxes to pay for the employees insurance. And that's…what gets thrown in my face.”

Supervisor McKay looked at it as a family saving $100 per month with the change in the policy, which would be $1,200 a year “so…if they didn't go to the hospital-no member of their family-they would be…$1,200 ahead. But, if one member went, they would still be $200 ahead, correct?”

“You got it down,” Gantt said.

The board, following the motion debate, opted for Gantt's policy change suggestion and for the county administrator to find a way that they can supplement the deductible legally or if they can help subsidize the premium legally with the savings for the family as was described.