Friday, November 6th, 2015
County opts out of health law terms over contraceptives
Move will cost county $265,000 more a year in health care costs
By Shelley Grieshop
CELINA - Mercer County Commissioners on Thursday chose to pay higher employee health care costs in 2016 instead of facing Obamacare terms and/or compromising Christian values.
Commissioners unanimously voted to stay with the county's current health care insurance plan, even though annual premium costs are expected to rise 8.5 percent, or about $265,000, to $3.6 million.
The current health care plan is grandfathered; a change would subject the county to full compliance with the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
Commissioner Greg Homan said the less-costly health benefit plans he reviewed would require the county to offer a "full range of contraceptives" including Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill.
"I think a lot of Mercer County residents wouldn't want their tax dollars paying for contraceptives," Homan said, adding the action could raise moral concerns for many area residents with strong Christian beliefs.
With the 8.5 percent increase, the county's premium cost per employee will be $580.40 per month for single coverage and $1,646.33 per month for family coverage.
The employee-paid portion of the premium will remain at 10 percent for single coverage and 12.5 percent for family coverage. Single coverage will be $26.79 per pay period and family coverage will be $94.98 per pay period. In 2016, there are 26 pay periods.
Although county workers will share some of the increased premium cost, they won't face higher deductibles or additional out-of-pocket expenses that are included in many of the lower-cost premium plans, commissioners said.
Also on Jan. 1, Ohio is adopting federal eligibility rules that reduce the age for adult dependent coverage from 28 to 26. County workers will no longer be able to pay for health insurance coverage for 27- or 28-year-old dependents.
The county, which employs about 275 workers, is self-insured as a member of the Midwest Employee Benefit Consortium with Auglaize and Hancock counties.
Commissioners said they aren't sure how long the county will be able to retain its grandfathered status.
"We don't know. We just don't know," commissioner Jerry Laffin said. "No one's ever been able to tell us."
Commissioners after Thursday's meeting said they have not been provided a complete list of ACA requirements by their MEBC consultant.
"I don't think anybody really knows what's in Obamacare," Homan said.
"I don't think we want to switch until we find out what's in it," he added.
Homan said the county is being pro-active when it comes to saving money on health care costs. About five months ago a wellness committee was formed to promote healthy living among employees. Homan heads up the committee, which includes five county workers.
Laffin said employees can do their part to keep health care costs down.
"We're asking employees to take more responsibility for their own health," he said.
Commissioners in recent years have asked workers to help cut insurance costs in a variety of ways such as choosing generic drugs instead of name brands. Workers overall have complied, Laffin said.