Health insurance: Commission could adopt account plans for Washington Co. employees

Nathan Baker • May 15, 2014 at 11:54 AM

To help stem rising health insurance costs, Washington County is considering a new model for its employees.

At Wednesday’s Budget Committee meeting, members received a primer on health reimbursement accounts from Benefits Coordinator Michelle Stewart and broker Tom Foster, who said the new type of insurance plan could save the county money and limit the amount employees pay for their health care.

“In layman’s terms, it’s a partially self-funding type plan,” Foster told the committee. “You don’t take full risk, but you take some of the risk.”

The recommended plan negotiated with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee keeps the current $750 deductible for the employees on the current plan and their participating family members.

Stewart said co-pays for office visits and prescriptions will also stay the same.

The change in the plan comes in the annual maximum out-of-pocket expenses for employees.

Under the current insurance plan, employees pay $1,750, but if the new plan is approved, that figure would increase to $4,000. Of that $4,000, however, employees would only be expected to pay $2,500 and the county would pay the remaining $1,500 out of the reimbursement account.

The amount required from employees will be higher next year because co-pays will be included in the maximum expenses, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act, Foster said.

Stewart said only 10 percent of the county’s employees will meet their maximum out-of-pocket expenses this year, meaning the county will likely only dip into the HRA for a small number of employees next year.

By upping the out-of-pocket maximum, the county can retain nearly the same level of benefits in a year when claims have been rising and a federal health care overhaul is creating uncertainty for insurers and employers.

Based on this year’s enrollment, Stewart said the county will pay nearly $5 million and employees will contribute almost $600,000.

Under the plan, with the health reimbursement account, she estimated the county to pay $4.6 million and employees to contribute about $662,000 annually.

Last month, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved the purchase of a similar insurance policy and the establishment of a health reimbursement account.

If Washington County were to enact the plan, it would first have to be approved by the Commercial, Industrial and Agricultural Committee before being put in place by the full commission.

Follow Nathan Baker on Twitter @JCPressBaker. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jcpressbaker.

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