Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton firm hired to review county employee health plan

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The Porter County Board of Contractors on Tuesday contracted with Heritage Advisory Group of Chesterton to be a “second set of eyes” for the county’s employee health plan and suggest any ways to cut costs.

The move comes in the wake of a few recent newspaper editorials taking jabs at the health plan overseen by the Commissioners.

Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, addressed the criticisms in a prepared statement, saying it is desirable to have a competitive benefit package since most salaries are below what they are in the private sector.

“It is elitist and easy to dismiss the contributions that our county employees make in the everyday life of our citizens. That is, until you need them,” Evans said.

The Commissioners have striven for ways to keep costs at a minimum, Evans said, giving the change to Porter Health Systems as the County’s Wellness Provider and raising the costs of deductibles and co-pays as examples. In addition to reviewing options to contain costs, the Commissioners are negotiating new methods of payments to hospitals.

Just this past year, the Commissioners reset the monthly premiums on the traditional plan for $75 for a single employee, $100 for employee/spouse, $125 for employee/child, and $175 for a family plan; while the high deductible version starts at $25 for single, $50 for employee/spouse, $75 for employee/child and $125 for a family.

Employees also can get part of their costs back by participating in the plan’s wellness program.

Costs have continued to climb because of “a very high rate of catastrophic claims,” Evans said. About 30 out of the 1,400 who get coverage make up roughly half of the claims the County receives, he said.

Adding another clarification, Anton Insurance is the county’s current servicing agent and receives no commission from the plan but is paid $2.75 for each employee in the plan per month which comes to less than $20,000 annually.

The Commissioners sought bids for the county plan during a meeting two months ago and have asked on three occasions for an independent review to be done to see how costs might be contained or lowered, Evans said.

Insurance costs have taken up a sizable chunk of the county’s general fund budget and the money for insurance this year is about to run out. The Commissioners will go to the County Council next week to ask for $5 million in hospital to cover expenses until the end of the year.

A majority of the County Council passed the 2014 budgets with the insurance fund already shorter than what was expected.

Heritage Advisory Group will be paid up to $5,000 for its services. All three Commissioners voted in favor of the agreement.

Evans said Steve Brady, a consultant with Heritage, was recommended by the Chesterton Town Council and the Mayor’s office in Portage, having worked with them on their insurance plans.

Childhood Cancer

Awareness Month

Also on Tuesday, the board approved a proclamation to once again designate September as “Childhood Cancer Awareness Month,” commissioned by the Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids (NICK) Foundation.

NICK Executive Director Donna Criner with the Foundation invited all county residents to an Awareness Walk on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Lemmon Lake County Park, 6322 W. 133rd Ave. in Crown Point.

The walk is from 2 to 5 p.m. and is $15 to pre-register and $25 to register on site. Registration information can be found on or on NICK’s Facebook page.

Criner said it is important to raise funds for children’s cancers because not much federal funding is given to research, as cancers in children are considered “rare.”

Almost 15,000 children are diagnosed per year in the United States, Criner said, and an estimated 2,555 die from the disease. Four children in Porter County have died from cancer over the past two years, she said.

“It’s important to support those families,” she said.


Lastly, the Commissioners are giving Mother Nature a hand in replenishing the plant life around government owned properties.

Trees suffered the effects of emerald ash borer and were removed. The county will be replacing 72 trees total and have stumps removed, along with replanting grass. The effort will total $43,610.



Posted 8/25/2014




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