Johnson City Press: Unicoi County Commission changes insurance providers, ups family coverage subsidy

Unicoi County Commission changes insurance providers, ups family coverage subsidy

Sue Guinn Legg • Jun 24, 2019 at 10:01 PM

ERWIN — The Unicoi County Commission on Monday voted to transfer the county’s employee health insurance coverage from United Healthcare to Blue Cross/Blue Shield at a savings of approximately 2 percent.

Commissioner Stephen Hendrix chairs the commission’s employee benefit committee, which recommended the change of coverage. He said the options came down to a 3 percent increase in the United plan or a 2 percent savings with Blue Cross.

In the same 8-2 vote, the commission approved an $153 increase in the county’s monthly subsidy for family insurance premiums, upping the $847 family coverage subsidy paid by the county last year to $1,000.

Commissioner Marie Rice voted against the measure, saying employees who chose the family coverage plan will effectively receive $5,000 more in annual benefits than other county employees.

Rice also noted that if 10 employees chose the family coverage, the cost of the increased subsidy over the course of a year will be roughly $50,000.

Commissioner Jason Harris also voted against the subsidy increase, noting that over a four-year period, the county has gone from paying 100 percent of employee insurance premiums, to a family insurance premium “that no one could afford,” to last year’s $847 family subsidy.

In other business Monday, the commission voted to use $100,000 of the $343,000 remaining from the county’s sale of Unicoi County Memorial Hospital to cover mandatory startup costs for an ambulance service agreement with Washington County/Johnson City EMS designed to help the county establish its own, locally controlled service.

The county approved the $218,000, one-year agreement with Washington County earlier this month and towns of Unicoi and Erwin have since signed interlocal agreements that will allow the service to operate countywide effective July 1.

Also on Monday, the board approved a new one-year medical services contract for jail inmates with Mountain States Health Alliance.

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