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County faces steep insurance rate increase

County faces steep insurance rate increase; sales tax ballot decision delayed

Staff writer

If Marion County keeps benefits and deductibles the same, employees’ health insurance premiums will increase about 16 percent, Marion County Commission heard Monday.

For employees who take health insurance through the county, Marion County contributes $479 per month now — enough to cover the premium for a single-person policy. Employees who wish to extend coverage to dependents have to make up the difference in cost.

Keeping benefits and deductibles as similar as possible, that amount would increase to $554 per month. The county has 82 employees receiving single coverage and 14 families. With 96 employees receiving health insurance, the county’s cost would increase about $86,000.

Federal health insurance reform contributed substantially to that increase, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas representative Tim Oglesby said.

Two main changes go into effect even if the county is grandfathered into the plan. Dependents can remain on their parents’ insurance until reaching 26 years old, and the lifetime maximum benefit will be abolished. Oglesby said few people reach the company’s $5 million lifetime maximum anyway.

If the county reduces its benefit or employer contribution by more than 5 percent, the county will not be eligible to be grandfathered in. If that occurs, insurance will also cover 100 percent of preventative wellness exams, with no deductible or co-pay.

About 6 percent of the increase is because of losses on insuring the county, he added. In 2010, Blue Cross Blue Shield had a loss ratio of 130 percent on prescription drugs, 101 percent on health care, and 94 percent on dental care for Marion County employees and dependents, Oglesby said. That means for every $1 the company received for prescription coverage, it paid $1.30.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has a goal of 84 percent for its loss ratios, Oglesby said.

Oglesby said some employers have had a rate increase of 30 percent this year.

Commissioner Dan Holub asked about legal challenges to the federal insurance mandate. Oglesby said he thought the minimum time for the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue would be one to one and one-half years, and even then he estimates the court would be only 40 percent likely to strike down the mandate.

In the meantime, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is preparing for implementation of the reform. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Prager is proactive in preparing the state, Oglesby said.

He said Blue Cross Blue Shield needs to know how the county will proceed as early in March as possible. Commissioners scheduled a meeting 9 a.m. Friday to discuss the matter.

The county budgeted for a 30 percent increase, Deputy County Clerk Tina Spencer said.

In other business:

  • A resolution to call a referendum on a proposed 0.5 percent sales tax was not ready to vote on. The resolution will be ready Monday.
  • Commissioners discussed what to do with approximately $26,000 received from TransCanada. Among other options, commissioners discussed purchasing equipment for use in pipeline-related emergencies.
  • Cooperative Grain and Supply of Hillsboro will sell 6,550 gallons of diesel to Road and Bridge Department for $20,075. Cardie Oil Company of Tampa bid $20,387.
  • Sales tax revenue for December sales, received in February, was $59,944. That was an increase of 20 percent from December 2009. The total receipts for January and February is $113,229, an increase of 21 percent from 2010.
  • Barb Smith was appointed to the North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging Board at the recommendation of Senior Citizens of Marion County.
  • Valuation notices will be mailed no later than March 18. The state changed standards for valuation of mobile homes and commercial property, County Appraiser Cindy Magill said.
  • Hillsboro Ford will sell Noxious Weed Department a 2011 1-ton Ford pickup truck for $23,345. Midway Motors bid $24,767 for a Ford and $24,710 for a Chevrolet. The truck will replace a 2000 1-ton truck with 133,000 miles, used for spraying weeds.
  • Noxious Weed Director Rollin Schmidt met with commissioners for 15 minutes in closed session to discuss personnel. On return to open session, commissioners instructed Schmidt to advertise for a part-time employee to fill a full-time vacancy.
  • Commissioners met in closed session for 15 minutes to discuss a candidate to be the emergency management director. They met Tuesday night to interview the candidate.
  • Commissioners met in closed session for 30 minutes to discuss land acquisition. No action was taken on return to open session.

The next commission meeting will be Monday.

Last modified March 2, 2011

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