The Porter County
Board of Commissioners heard at its meeting Tuesday that it saved $1.4
million on employee health insurance in 2019 compared to 2018.
Consultant Tony Bontrager reported costs are down again after the Board
switched County employee health insurance to a plan from United Healthcare,
following a big push to lower insurance costs in 2018.
dental costs were down 15.4 percent in 2019, and though Rx costs were up
about 10 percent, medical claims were down 17 percent. The total cost of the
plan in 2019 was down by 15.1 percent compared to its first year, saving a
total of $1.4 million, according to Bontrager.
Bontrager said the
uptick in Rx costs is a trend he’s seeing where Rx costs are up by eight to
12 percent. The increase is due in part to expensive medications that are
tailored for specific illnesses, he said. Bontrager said they’re
“life-saving and life-changing” drugs, but adding just one to the list of
covered medications can drive up Rx costs.
Biggs (R-North) said the continued reduction in cost is a big step since the
County used to pay as much as $14 million annually for insurance. The 2018
switch brought costs down to about $9 million, and in 2019 the County spent
about $8.5 million.
That half a million
more than pays for the wellness clinics the Board made available to
employees through a contract with Franciscan Alliance last year,
Commissioner Jeff Good (R-Center) said. Bontrager said use of the clinics
may have had a hand in cutting costs.
Biggs and Good said
despite the cheaper price tag, the County has never had a plan that offered
such a large network to employees--the new network extends to several
Chicago hospitals. “When people went into Chicago before, we had to
negotiate with the individual hospitals up there, which was like
hand-to-hand combat,” Good said. “We really haven’t sacrificed anything for
the employees, and it makes me feel even better.”
Scott McClure noted that $500,000 can seem like a pittance compared to the
total plan cost, but that’s about a three percent raise for all County
employees. “When we’re trying to come up with money for a raise, that is the
raise money,” he said.
The Board continues
to trim the fat from the planÑthey took Bontrager’s recommendations to
eliminate two benefits that employees aren’t using and cap the cost for
out-of-network emergency air transport at $25,000. The two programs done
away with are a maternity management program that costs $4,500 and year and
has had no participation, and a 24-hour nurse line that costs $3,500 a year
and saw little to no use. Employees will also be required to use in-network
dialysis centers going forward.
Good began the
meeting with a warning to County employees since reports from the IT
department show a high usage of County internet for nonwork purposes. Good
said the reports rubbed the Board the wrong way in light of its recent
discussions on cybersecurity and how Porter County has managed to avoid
becoming the target of hackers the likes of which both Lake and LaPorte
counties have fallen victim to. ”It’s sort of a slap in our face when this
happens. We don’t take it very kindly,” he said.
The news warrants a
crackdown on internet use, Good said. “We are creating a list now, and what
will happen if this continues is we will bring these names, and I don’t care
who they are, we will be talking about them and putting their names out in
front,” he said. “This is the only way we can combat this.”
“We’ve all seen
what’s happened on either side of us in other counties when they get hacked.
It’s very expensive, and we don’t want to go there, especially when people
are doing things they shouldn’t be doing in the first place at work,”
Commissioner Laura Blaney (D-South) said.
Management Agency Director Lance Bella gave a presentation on the inner
workings of EMA, highlighting the impact of the Department’s volunteers. He
said he can’t think his volunteers enough.
The Department has
between 16 and 20 volunteers at a given time, and Bella said a conservative
estimate of how much time they spent on EMA last year is 2,736 hours. “We
would have paid over $75,000 to these people, and that’s not to mention the
money that they save us with the repairs they do,” he said.
Bella said not only
do volunteers respond to emergency situations, they also maintain emergency
equipment, including the 52 tornado sirens in the County. The volunteer
spirit even extends to Bella’s administrative assistant, who volunteered to
patch and paint the interior walls at EMA. Biggs said he saw unparalleled
organization and cleanliness in a recent visit to the facility, and said the
paint job “is a huge visual difference.”
The Board voted to
reappoint current member Bryan Waisanen and new member Carl English to the
Porter County Park Board. The Commissioners now have two appointments to the
Park Board instead of one, per a 2019 change in State law and subsequent
resolution by the Porter County Council that eliminated the local circuit
court judges’ appointments to that Board.
In other business,
the Board approved Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey to transfer $58,900
from within her budget to purchase a special purpose vehicle, following a
special meeting last week where Good was absent and Biggs didn’t agree with
Blaney to greenlight the purchase. Good and Blaney voted to approve the
purchase, and Biggs voted no again Tuesday. Bailey plans to use the vehicle
as a mobile vote site and to transport equipment and absentee ballots and
hold voter registration drives.
The Board approved
on first reading an ordinance to establish a non-reverting fund to receive a
$25,000 grant for the Porter Circuit Court Adult Guardianship Program. No
one spoke for or against the creation of the fund in a public hearing, and
there will be a second reading March 17. McClure said Circuit Court Judge
Mary DeBoer, who was the driving force in obtaining the grant, sent her
apologies that she was unable to attend the meeting.
The Board also
approved a resolution assigning tax sale certificates to the Storm Water
Management Board for some parcels up for tax sale that could help the
Department of Development and Storm Water in future projects to alleviate