BUTLER COUNTY HEALTH INSURANCE
Old monthly premium: $976,630
New monthly premium: $989,089
Old county-paid percentage: 78 percent
New county-paid percentage: 75 percent
2014 total premium: $15 million
Potential 2015 premium: $15.8 million
When faced with a $1.7 million health insurance rate hike last fall, the Butler County commissioners took steps they hoped would lessen the increase,. Now it appears those steps will halve the rate hike.
Human Resources Director Jim Davis said the county paid about $15 million for insurance last year, and with January figures in, it looks like the county and its employees will pay $15.8 million this year.
“If we didn’t do anything, we were looking at that number going to $16.7 million,” he said. “That’s a disaster.”
The 11.3 percent premium increase is nearly double the hit the county took last year, after someone turned in a single $5 million claim. Officials said claims are the driving force behind rate increases. From June 2013 through May 31, 2014, the county paid $14 million in premiums and the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio (CEBCO) paid out $16.7 million for claims.
The commissioners made a deliberate decision to try to get spouses off their health plan, to try and reduce the rates. Last year the county saw spouses rack up $958,122 in 247 claims; employees submitted $873,997 in 471 claims and bills paid for 56 children amounted to $101,669. Davis said 20 employees have dropped the county’s plan altogether since the county shifted the percentage responsibility and added a $60 per month smoking premium. Davis said 162 people pay extra to puff.
The overall payment responsibility percentage shifted from 78/22 percent to 75/25 percent, with the county paying the larger portion. The majority of the 1,315 employees who buy the county’s insurance subscribe to the “low” family plan so their monthly premium went from $213 to $317. The county has also ramped up its health and wellness program and offers incentives for participation.
Commissioner T.C. Rogers said even with the hike their employees are still getting a good deal, especially in light of national debate over health insurance, and the lower liability makes things even better.
“I think when they start talking to their neighbors, I think they will find out it wasn’t such a bad deal at all,” Rogers said.
There are some however who don’t view it that way. Four sheriff’s unions have filed to reopen their contracts to negotiate the price hike. When the county raised the employee contribution above 25 percent the reopener kicked in.
“It still exceeds what the contract says,” Sgt. Jeff Gebhart, union chief for the deputies and their supervisors said. “They just arbitrarily violate these contracts, they just violate them and they know it costs tens of thousands of dollars to fight them.”