Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Commissioners split over latest health insurance plan

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A bipartisan majority of the Porter County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved 2-1 a recommendation by consultant Stephen Brady, of the Chesterton-based Heritage Advisory Group, to move forward with a reference-based reimbursement option for the County’s self-funded employee health insurance plan.

Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, was the lone vote against the measure saying he has doubts that this is the solution to the County’s health insurance funding dilemma.

The County should approach the situation “holistically,” he said, and this he feels is “chipping around the edges.”

“I think it just needs to be more,” Good said, although he commended Brady on his presentation and research of different cost management insurance plans.

Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, however said this is “a first step” toward bringing the insurance costs in line with what the County can reasonably budget for.

“It’s a good place to start, I think,” Blaney said.

The hope is to keep costs under the $9 million the County Council has set aside for insurance this year, which is a $3 million reduction from last year’s cost.

Brady said what is causing insurance expenses to spike is a high number of catastrophic claims. He advocated that moving ahead with a plan that would focus on improving employees’ long term health to cut down on the frequency of catastrophic claims

“The money spent on claims is a symptom, not the disease,” he said.

Evans said the County wellness programs have never been utilized by more than 50 percent of the employees, even with incentives. He said that he’d like for employees to “get some skin in the game” in aiding the County’s efforts to control health costs.

The plan the Commissioners chose to pursue is organized by the Florida-based INETICO, which looks for wellness participation of above 50 percent.

Brady said he feels INETICO, “a well-known cost containment company,” will be a better fit for the County over the ELAP method that was discussed by the County Council last month. The annual service cost for INETICO is $64,800, Brady said in his presentation, while ELAP’s would be $1.2 million.

Also with INETICO, the County will be able to retain its current third party administrator Stewart C. Miller and its servicing agent for more than 23 years, Anton Insurance, according to Brady.

Prior to the discussion with Brady, Evans read a statement addressing the tension surrounding County officials in their efforts to reduce costs on the County’s self-funded health plan.

“We must find a balance between our responsibilities to taxpayers, and our commitment to our hardworking and dedicated employees,” Evans said.

Evans said Brady was asked by the Commissioners to make recommendations on plans that would not reduce employee benefits or increase premiums, right after the County Council, during last fall’s budget hearings, rejected a proposed high deductible plan that would contain costs at about $8 million.

Even though the Commissioners had proposed the high deductible plan, Evans said the Commissioners “were not in favor” of it but it was the only option that met the mandate of the Council to reduce costs sufficiently.

RDA appointment

In other matters, the Commissioners named Valparaiso resident Chris Campbell, senior vice-president for Centier Bank, as the County’s appointment to the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA).

Four candidates including Campbell applied for the seat.

Good served previously as the County’s RDA appointment but resigned, having been elected County Commissioner in November.

In other appointments, Sheriff Dave Reynolds was chosen by the Commissioners to be part of County Government’s employee sick bank.

Empower Porter County

Also, the board approved the last $150,000 installment of county economic development income tax funds for its three-year grant (2013-2015) to EMPOWER Porter County, a LLC member of the Porter County Community Foundation focused on preventing and treating substance abuse.

Heather Harrigan Hitz, executive director for EMPOWER, said the grant will be utilized to build youth organizations, continuing education to medical professionals and consumers, and host community events to help parents understand development in youth.

The organization also receives support from the City of Valparaiso, Portage Redevelopment Commission, Porter Regional Hospital and NIPSCO.

 

Posted 2/19/2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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