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|11-16-02: Health insurance costs up
|By SEAN RICE
The Daily Standard
The cost to Mercer County for providing heath insurance for county
employees will increase by an average 22 percent next year.
Mercer County Commissioners passed a resolution Thursday setting
increased premium rates for 2003. The change comes on the heels of news that the
self-insurance pool to which the county belongs needs more funding from participating
Officials with the Midwest Employee Benefits Consortium (MEBC) met in
Wapakoneta on Oct. 29 where they learned the bad news. The self-insurance pool includes
Mercer, Auglaize, Van Wert, Shelby and Hancock counties.
Mercer County Commissioner Jerry Laffin said Friday that MEBC hired an
outside consultant to examine premiums collected and claims payments made in each of the
counties in the past few years. With the study information, the consortium learned more
money will be needed in 2003 to bolster the reserve fund from which claims are drawn.
Each county in the pool runs it's health insurance policy differently
and the needed premium increases also varied for each county.
Mercer County's cost for medical insurance will increase by 21 percent
and the cost for dental insurance will increase by 30 percent. Because the dental is a
smaller part of the total heath package, the total average increased cost to the county is
22 percent, Laffin said.
A majority of the county's 285 employees do not pay into the heath
plan, other than deductibles and co-pay fees. Only some MR/DD employees, who pay a monthly
cost for insurance, will feel the increase in their own pocketbooks.
Broken down to an individual scale, the county will be paying $280.81
per single policy-holder per month, up from $230.73 per month this year. The family rate
increased from $654.68 per month this year to $797.80.
While most county employees will be unaffected by the change, the
commissioners' resolution was needed to allow each of the county's agencies to adjust
budget numbers for 2003. In the general fund, where Laffin estimated 80 percent of the
cost of employee heath care comes from, the total expenditure increase next year will be
Despite the steep rise in costs for next year, Laffin said it is not a
catastrophic situation. Pool members, especially Mercer County, have seen minimal
increases in recent years. Mercer County health insurance costs rose 7 percent from last
"We've got to consider that we went three or four years with
minimal increases," Laffin said. "When you look at other insurance programs,
increases of 15 to 25 percent are not uncommon."
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