Chesterton Tribune



Commissioners reevaluating health care options for cost savings

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Answering the call of the Porter County Council to investigate ways that will soften the blow of health insurance costs on county government, the County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday started the charge by voting to terminate its current plan at the end of the year and consider new options that could lower costs by 8 to 12 percent in 2014.

The Commissioners invited third party administrator Anton Insurance to discuss possible plan options. Principal Mike Anton and employee benefits specialist Leigh Westergren introduced a plan that would increase the cost of deductibles on the traditional plan from $500 to $1,000 and from $1,250 to $2,000 for the “high deductible” plan that includes a health savings account.

Anton said coinsurance for both plans will be 80-20 insurer-insured instead of 90-10 as it has been.

The monthly premiums on the traditional would be $75 for a single employee, $100 for employee/spouse, $125 for employee/child and $175 for a family plan while the high deductible version would start at $25 for single, $50 for employee/spouse, $75 for employee/child and $125 for a family plan.

Anton said that these new plans would be a step toward “changing the culture” in the provision of health insurance by getting employees to participate more in their plans, with the goal of the insurer to implement a plan with the least amount of “punitiveness.”

The new plans would go into effect Jan. 1 and County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, asked how long the Commissioners would have if they wanted to make adjustments in the plan. Westergren carriers would need to be notified of changes by Oct. 1, but Anton mentioned the Commissioners could still attempt to make changes.

Evans said he found it unfavorable to raise premiums when employees haven’t received pay raises, which has not happened in over three years. There is still a possibility the County Council will allow raises this year at the end of the 2014 budget sessions.

But there are incentives in the proposed plans to motivate employees to take action to improve their health, Anton said. Those who attend a Lunch and Learn session will get back $25 from what they pay into the system.

Employees will also be encouraged to take part in wellness programs and free health screenings. Right now, approximately half of those on the plan utilize the programs and participation has increased steadily over the years, Westergren said.

Evans said he feels having 100 percent participation in the wellness programs would have the most effect on the County’s health care related costs.

“I am truly disheartened that all our employees don’t use that,” Evans said. “A healthier workforce is a healthier plan for us.”

As of now, a little more than 600 employees are on the plan and about 800 dependents, Westergren said.

Those employees and dependents are also eligible to receive care free of charge for acute illnesses and injuries at Porter Regional Hospital’s CareEXPRESS Urgent Care Center.

Evans said the County’s self-funded insurance plan has held down costs as well as provided more flexibility than having a private company handle the matter.

“I think our employees benefit that we manage their plan [rather] than some guy in Keokuk, Iowa,” Evans said.

The Commissioners will revisit the potential plans at their next meeting on Oct. 15. Westergren said open enrollment for employees would start in November.

Safe Schools Commission

The Commissioners officially established the Porter County Safe Schools Commission with approval on first and second reading.

Indiana law allows counties to form safe school commissions, but Juvenile Services Director Alison Cox said there has not been an ordinance adopted on the County’s books that recognizes the formation of such a commission, even though one already exists.

The new Porter County Safe Schools Commission was organized about a year ago and has been “very busy,” Cox said, developing common protocols, safety plans and response plans for law enforcement in a mix of different emergency scenarios, including an active shooter.

The Commissioners are not responsible for appointing commission members, but the state law directs that members include a school safety officer from each school district in the county, a county judge, a representative of each police station, workers from juvenile probation, representatives of community organizations that work with children, and other appropriate members selected by the commission.

Other business:

-- The County Highway Department will purchase new bookkeeping software that will replace the system that operated primarily on Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Highway Superintendent Al Hoagland and IT Director Sharon Lippens said the Excel formulas are now defunct and the new system from GFS will create files that be less susceptible to errors and more useful in applying for grants.

The Commissioners approved the purchase at $6,000 for first year start up cost and $1,500 each year after for maintenance. The money will come out of a highway fund that is not part of the county’s general fund.

-- A contract with Engstrom Auctions of Valparaiso was approved to run the upcoming Sheriff’s public auction on Oct. 18 at the County Highway Department, 1955 S. Ind. 2. Engstrom will receive an 8 percent commission on sales.

PCSP Capt. George Gonzalez said a total of 24 cars, vans and trucks are to be sold along with a few plows, bikes and a push mower. The vehicles sold will be replaced with new ones.

Evans said the County does not inflate the sheriff’s fleet as a way of controlling costs. In order to purchase a vehicle, one must be given up first, he said.

Posted 10/2/2013