A mixed reaction to the newly proposed high deductible health plan for
Porter County government employees has the County Board of Commissioners
ready to do a complete overhaul on the plan for next year.
Employees packed the commissioner chambers on Tuesday, many of them
noticeably from the county sheriff’s department, to see how the
commissioners would move on the plan that was brought forward earlier this
month by the county’s insurance agent, Anton Insurance, and its third party
administrator Stewart C. Miller.
According to the proposal, employees would pay an annual deductible of
$2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for family coverage with the option of
setting up a health savings account. Money in employees’ health savings
accounts could carry over from year-to-year and be used to pay off claims or
other medical costs.
But the deductibles are significant when compared to three current plans the
county has available, which start with deductibles of $350 for singles and
$700 for families.
The HSA plan could save the county anywhere from $1.3 million to $2 million
next year according to an actuarial report from Milliman Inc. and reduce
expenses in the county’s General Fund, where approximately one-fourth of the
revenues go to insurance costs.
Instead of taking a vote, the commissioners opted to create a five-member
committee to look at further options that would mitigate costs and offer
more affordable premiums and deductibles for employees.
“We are taking every consideration to be equal with what we have now,”
County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, told those sitting in the
audience. He said the county needs to realize that the health care market is
changing and the county must adapt accordingly, telling the employees they
“have to have some skin in the matter.”
“It’s something that will overcome us if we don’t take control,” Evans said.
“We can’t afford to go on the way we are and keep the county solvent.”
The committee will consist of four employees who are on the county’s current
insurance plan – one member who is not married, one member who is married
but without children, one member who is married with children and one member
who has special medical needs – to advise how plans would affect them. Evans
will be the committee’s fifth member.
Members will be selected by next week, Evans said, and will start
immediately on looking at different health plans. He hopes the committee can
make a recommendation to the commissioners and the council by November so
the plan can start on Jan. 1 next year.
As a result of the effort, the commissioners voted unanimously to terminate
the contract it has with HealtheACCESS, which under the county’s health plan
provides free or inexpensive health screenings, wellness programs and clinic
visits to the employees. Evans said the vote was in no way to discredit the
organization but just to ensure the county would not be bound to continue
the contract in 2013 in case the county wishes to move in another direction.
“I don’t think we should be locked into any plan until the committee comes
up with a recommendation,” said Evans.
The momentum to revamp the county’s health plan was amplified by findings in
a preliminary comprehensive report of the county’s finances presented
Tuesday by representatives from H.J. Umbaugh & Associates of Plymouth. The
presentation was made later to the County Council (see related story).
Todd Samuelson and Bob Clifford from Umbaugh projected that the county will
see a $1.7 million loss of revenue in 2013 because of the state tax cap
legislation. To make up for the loss, the report said reductions in
spending, reallocating tax levies or revenue shifts will be needed to
sustain the county’s optimal cash reserves of 15 percent of budgeted
Further comments regarding health insurance in the report indicate that the
county is paying its health premiums close to the national average and lower
than most Indiana counties of comparable size.
Mike Anton of Anton Insurance said new mandates at the federal level have
reformed the way health care operates. With laws that make any citizen
capable of purchasing health insurance, companies are shifting their focus
to “managing populations” rather than evaluating risks.
It will become more common for companies to push programs that promote
health wellness, Anton said. Challenges from insurance and tax caps continue
to get more daunting but Anton remained optimistic.
“Porter County is well-positioned. We just need to tune it up,” said Anton.
Control of health costs would require joint efforts by the commissioners and
County Council, Evans added, and “every dollar” must be scrutinized.
In another matter, the commissioners announced Valparaiso resident Ken
Blaney has accepted an offer to become head of the county Expo Center as
temporary replacement for former manager Brian Schafer, who resigned in
Evans cited Blaney’s background as a business owner and event coordinator as
the reason he was chosen as interim director. He is the former owner of
Kelsey’s Steak House and currently operates a remodeling and construction
Blaney is married to at-large County Council member Laura Blaney.
Earlier this month, the commissioners appointed Michelle Smith as interim
director for the Memorial Opera House, a second venue Schafer had overseen.
Also on Tuesday, the commissioners received three bids for the roof
restoration project for the County Courthouse which ranged from $191,000 to
$231,000. Mike Jabo of DLZ Indiana will make a bid recommendation at the
Sept. 4 commissioner meeting.
Plans are also moving along with the county’s effort to meet ADA compliance
act, which is mandated to be done this year. The commissioners approved a
contract with American StructurePoint of Indianapolis for $116,000, which
will be taken out of county CEDIT funds.