Health insurance costs to remain steady for county employees
A 23-percent increase in the county’s health insurance premium will not be shouldered by the employees.
At least not in the coming year.
In a special meeting Friday, the Putnam County Commissioners voted unanimously not to increase the employee portion of health insurance premiums when the new plan year begins on Aug. 1.
This means that employees will still be offered the same rates as last year, for example $48.90 per pay period for individuals and $137.10 for families.
Meanwhile, the county is seeing the overall monthly premium increase significantly, from $167,500 a month to $207,000.
Commissioner President Rick Woodall explained the reason for the increase earlier in the week during the Commissioners’ regular meeting, noting that a number of large claims for county employees had reversed the trend of the premiums actually decreasing during each of the last two years.
Currently, county employees pay 15 percent of the premium, while the county pays the other 85. Friday’s decision reduces the employee percentage further.
Part of the motivation not to increase health insurance costs is the possibility that the county budget will not allow for raises in 2022.
While the issue of raises will not be settled until budget hearings later this summer, officials continue to brace for the tax impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, whose effects on local governments are expected to hit hardest in the next couple of years.
While the County Council has not indicated that raises are off the table, it is expected to be cautious.
“If we change the employees’ contribution this year and then they don’t get a raise, it’s like a double whammy,” Woodall said.
Fellow Commissioner David Berry echoed the same sentiments.
“Let’s not do an increase because if they don’t get a raise, that’s putting them in a hole,” Berry said.
Instead, the Commissioners plan to dip into the county’s Health Insurance Trust Fund to pay the rest.
While the fund currently has more than $1.4 million in it, Auditor Kristina Alexander reminded the Commissioners that a $650,000-$750,000 cushion needs to be maintained in the fund.
Not only should the county remain above this level, the county also gets between $200,000 and $250,000 in health insurance refunds each year, all of which goes into the fund.
However, if premiums continue to increase, the county will not continue to have this option.
“What’s going to happen next year?” Commissioner Tom Helmer asked.
For now, this year is the problem at hand, and employee health insurance will remain unchanged.
Besides the employee premiums staying the same, the county will continue to contribute $500 to the health savings account of any employee with such a plan, as well as matching up to an additional $1,000 in contributions for each employee.
Berry made the motion to keep the insurance unchanged, a move seconded by Helmer.
Woodall joined them in a unanimous vote.