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County awaits insurance ideas

NATCHEZ — If no changes are made to the health care coverage Adams County’s government provides its employees, the county faces a cost increase of approximately $126,000 over its budget for 2013-2014.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors met with its insurance agent, Randy Hazlip, this week, and Hazlip said the health care plan the county offers through Blue Cross-Blue Shield is looking at a 21 percent increase in costs over the $600,000 budgeted for this year because of guidelines under the Affordable Care Act if nothing is changed.

The decision about what has to be done has to be in place by January under the act’s regulations. Board members have tasked Hazlip with coming back to them with the broadest range of options possible as quickly as possible.

Much of the cost increase is because of the act’s requirement that all insurance plans have a maximum deductible of $5,000, Hazlip said.

“We had done a much higher deductible, and that is no longer an option that is available,” he said. “Having to lower your deductibles naturally constitutes a cost increase.”

County employees have a $7,500 deductible and a $30 co-pay on their health care plans.

County Administrator Joe Murray said $7,000 of that deductible is covered under a gap plan through insurance provider Morgan White, while $500 — the de facto deductible for employees — is under the Blue Cross plan.

Hazlip said a myriad of new, small fees associated with health plans contributed to the increase in costs.

“Nationwide, $8 billion in fees have been implemented,” he said. “It amounts to, in Mississippi, a 2.5-percent increase in premiums from Blue Cross.”

Supervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said the board has instructed Hazlip to look at all possible proposals to keep the costs affordable for the county.

Those proposals might include an increase in deductible under Blue Cross, increased co-pays and higher employee contributions for family members covered under an employee plan.

Supervisor Calvin Butler said the county’s insurance claims for the year have been good, which might factor into cost considerations down the road, and the main focus is making sure employees can keep good health care coverage at an affordable rate.

“There will be a higher cost for insurance and it has to be covered, whether the county or the employee, and we are hoping we can get some numbers that aren’t too rough for either,” he said.

Murray said no course has been set yet, and the board has no idea what is the best course of action until Hazlip presents them with the full range of options early next month.