Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners approve short term disability option for employees

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners voted at its meeting Tuesday to contract with Met Life to provide a short-term disability option for County employees.

The benefit will be available to employees who sign up and contribute approximately two dollars per paycheck. The County will pick up 65 percent of the annual cost, and the rest is funded by employee contributions, as long as half of all County employee participate. The County’s share is $58,411 for the year.

Commissioner Jim Biggs, R-North, asked what happens if the County can’t get 50 percent participation. County Attorney Scott McClure said in that case, the County has to work harder to make sure all employees know its an option. The contract could also be renegotiated.

There is a preexisting conditions clause, that, according to County consultant General Insurance Services, could apply to conditions an employee was treated for in the past three months in relation to a disability request. Of the two most cost effective options, Met Life and Lincoln Financial, Met Life’s clause was more forgiving.

County Attorney Scott McClure took a moment to reflect on the sick bank, where employees used to donate unused days off for people who needed extra time off for medical reasons. McClure said the sick bank was a good creation a the time, but no longer works well with healthcare laws like HIPPA.

McClure said awarding days from the sick bank, and awarding them fairly, required asking questions that bordered on violations of privacy, which made complying with HIPPA, “exceedingly difficult.”

“It became clear that there was almost no path to making the sick bank work in a way that was compliant. That’s why we switched and pivoted toward a short-term disability option,” McClure said.

Commissioner President Jeff Good, R-Center, said the plan is a good investment for employees to opt into. “For 2 dollars a paycheck, that’s a really nice security to have.”

In related business, the Board voted to renew its contract with United for employee health insurance.

Tony Bontrager, with the County’s consultant on health insurance RE Sutton, reported the only change United recommended was capping out of network ambulance charges at $25,000.

Good asked Bontrager to clarify whether or not employees could be responsible for out of network charges exceeding that amount. Bontrager said the purpose for the change is not to absolve United of its responsibility for those claims, but to give them leverage to negotiate the cost of out of network transport.

Bontrager reported that RE Sutton is prepared to look at claims data to show how the County’s plan with United is saving money and how much, but right now, much of the data from claims under the old insurance plan still linger in the way. Bontrager said next year they should have a clean set of data on the new plan.

Bontrager did say that under the old plan, the County was consistently paying more for claims than they were projected to pay--as much as 115 percent of expected costs for the last two to three years the County was insured with BAS. So far, the County is trending toward not exceeding its projected costs with United, meeting about 95 percent of the expected. McClure pointed out that this represents a full 20 percent reduction in expected costs.

Other Business

The Board approved the purchase of nine new vehicles for the Sheriff’s Department--2020 Ford Explorers--from low-bidder Lakeshore Ford. Major Gary Gear reported the new vehicles will be equipped and delivered later this year, and nine vehicles from the Sheriff’s Police fleet will be decommissioned, likely in time for the Sheriff’s sale. The vehicles cost $34,320 each and cost $6,126.85 to equip, for a total cost of $364,021.65.

The Board agreed to provide $314,021.65 and have the Sheriff’s Department pay $50,000.



Posted 2/8/2019




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