County switches insurance plan, hopes to see savings

Published 12:07 am Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NATCHEZ — Adams County may be paying a quarter million dollars less for employee health care in coming years.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted to move from a self-funded employee insurance plan to a fully funded plan, which their insurance agent, Randy Hazlip, said would have a gross savings of $218,074 annually.

Under the board’s current self-funded plan, the county covers up to $50,000 in insurance costs for employees out of the county coffers, Supvervisors’ President Darryl Grennell said.

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Beyond $50,000, costs are currently covered by what is referred to as a re-insurance plan. However, employees who are considered high risk — those with known health issues — are placed in a pool in which the county has to cover the costs for expenses up to $150,000.

County Administrator Joe Murray said under the existing self-funded plan, health care costs for employees have remained between $1.9 and $2.1 million for several years.

Using the self-funded model, the supervisors have had to allocate money into a health insurance budget, estimating what they thought would be necessary for the coming year. Under the fully-funded model, the board will know ahead of time what premiums will be.

“We basically have been guessing, and in some years we actually under funded it hoping that we would have a good year, and most of the time we found we did not put enough money into that self-insured fund,” Grennell said.

“This way we know exactly what we will be facing in a fiscal year in terms of health insurance. It gives us real numbers instead of estimates.”

Hazlip said the reason the savings for the new policy needed to be stated in gross terms for the first year was because the county might still have some outstanding claims from the current health insurance year, which will end March 31.

“Basically, we will still have some claims that are still hanging out there from the current health care plan, so we have got to put some money in that to cover those claims,” Grennell said.

Under the current self-funded plan, employees pay a $500 deductible. The new plan will have a $7,500 deductible.

However, as part of the fully-funded package the supervisors voted to accept, the county adopted a second form of insurance that will pick up the deductible payments for employees beyond $500, Grennell said.

“In a sense, the deductible doesn’t change for the employee,” he said.

The new plan — which will remain with Blue Cross-Blue Shield — starts April 1.