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11-16-02: Health insurance costs up
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 counties.
    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 approximately $200,000.
    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 year
    "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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