FAYETTEVILLE — For the first time in eight years, Washington County employees will see an increase in their health insurance premiums if they choose to continue with the county’s health insurance plan.
Benefits and pay issues were both addressed during the recent Washington County Quorum Court meeting (July 19).
The Quorum Court had tried to raise the amount that employees are responsible to pay several months ago, but had to postpone the decision because the move would have made the county lose its grandfathered status under new health care laws.
The proposal at that time would have altered the plan by more than 5% which is considered a “major change” under the law, thus meaning the loss of grandfathered status. That would have meant that changes required in 2014 would begin immediately. The new proposal approved Thursday falls under the 5% rule.
The plan changes include:
A 5% increase of employee and retiree contribution to the premium
Increase in deductible from $300 to $345
Increase from $20 to $25 for primary care physician copay
Increase in prescription costs from $5/$25/$50 to $10/$30/$55
All of the changes mean an estimated savings of more than $160,000 to the county.
At least one justice of the peace reminded the court that less money was not actually being paid for county employee health care.
“This is cost shifting. We’re not saving anything, we’re shifting the cost to the employees,” said JP Barbara Fitzpatrick.
The open enrollment period is November 2012 and deductions from payroll will start Jan. 1, 2013 with the changes taking effect Feb. 1, 2013.
MERIT PAY TABLED
In a separate matter, the court members tabled making changes to the personnel policies that would create a merit pay program. The reasons for each JP voting to table the measure were varied, but they agreed that the plan needed to go back to committee for more adjustments.
Consultant Blair Johanson has worked with the county’s personnel committee to make changes to personnel policy, including the pay ranges and policies. A long list of policy changes were put to the court members for approval Thursday, but the court members voted to separate the merit pay issue from the other changes. The other changes simply place into written policy what is already in practice.
The concern for many JPs is that the merit pay plan would not have specifically tied the merit pay increases to annual evaluations or any other commonly-used measuring tool across all departments.
“Merit pay needs to be qualitative and quantitative,” said JP Candy Clark. “I won’t vote for merit ever but if we are going to do this, let’s do it right across the board.”
The merit pay increase plan will go back to committee for further consideration.