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Changes to health benefits approved
County details plan to offset rising costs
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County employees will see either an increase in the cost of health care next year or a change in their plan benefits and requirements.

Commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve the 2013 employee contribution rates, which will increase from 5 percent to 10 percent for the same coverage.

However, employees who select a new plan option and participate in a new wellness program will pay the same amount per paycheck.

The increase in premiums is the final step in the county’s plan to rein in rising health care costs, finance director David Gruen said.

“We’re using all four tools at our disposal here to try to bring the funding for our health insurance program in line with this total program of $17 million in cost,” Gruen said.

The county also has changed providers, introduced a second plan option and launched a wellness program to combat the high claims and rising costs of the program, he said.

Personnel director Pat Carson said the county must start bringing its contributions down to avoid being taxed a 40 percent surcharge as a “Cadillac plan” in 2018 under the health care reform act.

Plans contributing more than $10,200 per employee annually will be taxed. Carson said Forsyth County currently average $14,600 per employee, with the cost anticipated to increase to $16,000 in 2013 without changes.

The new employee premiums do come with some options in 2013.

An employee with individual coverage who opts to continue the same coverage, which has a $500 deductible, will see the monthly cost rise from $29.90 to $108.96.

The new choice plan, which sets the deductible at $1,500, will cost $79.90 per month.

However, employees who participate in the wellness program will receive a $600 per year discount, which brings the cost of the choice plan in line with the current $29.90.

For those who stay with the $500 plan and opt in to the wellness program, the monthly cost will be $58.96, for an increase of $29.06 per month.

It’s unknown how much the measures could save because employees haven’t selected from the new options. But Gruen said the county will stay well below the average contribution level.

County workers currently contribute about 5 percent of the cost of health care, compared to the 24 percent average of other counties, he said.

The savings from the plan changes this year would free up funds in the 2013 budget to offer up to a 3 percent merit raise or cost-of-living adjustment for employees, Gruen added.

The changes to employee premiums was news to court administrator Dawn Childress, who asked the commission to consider postponing a vote so the people affected could review them.

“This is the first I’ve seen of any of this. My employees have not seen this. This is a huge increase,” Childress said. “I understand that we need to increase it, but that’s double.”

Due to the schedule to get the changes in place, delaying a vote would have increased the costs of installing new technology, said Susan Weatherly, a consultant from Northwestern Benefits.

Gruen said the increase for employees who choose to stay with the current plan and participate in the wellness program would match almost dollar to dollar with a 3 percent raise or cost-of-living adjustment if granted by commissioners.

“It’s a large percent increase [to the employee contributions] because the dollar amount is small,” Gruen said.

The commission also voted to raise contributions for dental coverage from $2.28 per month to $7.08 for an individual without orthodontic services, or $10.10 per month all-inclusive.

Gruen said that change is estimated to save about $200,000 in 2013.

Adopted Employee Rates 2013 Health Ins