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Commission votes to make family health insurance more affordable for Unicoi County employees

Sue Guinn Legg • May 21, 2018 at 10:30 PM

ERWIN — For the first time since 2014, Unicoi County will increase its insurance premium supplement to make family health care coverage more affordable for its employees.

Unicoi County commissioners on Monday approved an additional $300 monthly supplement for employees who carry family insurance as part of a larger insurance measure recommended by the commission’s Employee Benefits Committee.

The measure also includes the county’s coverage of an anticipated 6 percent overall increase in insurance premiums that will keep premiums for employees with individual health coverage at the same level as this year.

The 6 percent premium increase will up the county’s monthly insurance premium contribution from $520 a month to $551 for all 93 employees enrolled in insurance, for a combined cost increase of $34,819 to be paid by the county.

The $300 family insurance supplement will lower employees’ monthly premiums in three tiers of low- to high-deductible family coverage from $888 to $588, $656 to $356 and $535 to $235 a month.

With only five county employees currently carrying family insurance, the annual cost of the supplement is estimated at $18,000 for those five employees, and $18,000 more for every five additional employees who chose to carry family insurance as a result of the lower premiums.

With four of the county’s nine commissioners absent from Monday’s meeting, it took all five commissioners in attendance voting in favor to establish the majority needed to pass the new insurance agreement.

Commission John Mosely made the motion to approve, and Commissioner Todd Wilcox, who chairs the Employee Benefit Committee and presented the recommendation to the commission, seconded the motion.

With Commissioner Bridget Peters, Gene Wilson, Glenn White and Lauren Thomas absent, the motion passed with Mosely, Wilcox, commissioners Jason Harris and Ken Garland and Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice voting unanimously to approve.

Following the vote, Rice said the additional insurance costs will equal roughly two cents on the county’s current tax rate.

Other major expenses under discussion in the county’s 2018-19 budget include a request for $1.3 million in additional funding for the Sheriff’s Department that Rice said would equal to approximately 41 cents on the current tax rate.

With ambulance service expenses that may include a privately contracted operator as well as a land purchase and construction of a ambulance station also under discussion, Rice said the county could be looking at an additional 52 cents on the tax rate.

“We’ll just have to get together and work on it in our budget sessions and see what we can do,” she said.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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