ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County employees will be looking at an increase in insurance premiums starting in 2013 if recommendations made by the county’s Insurance Review Committee are accepted by the County Commission.
Spencer Allen, senior vice president/practice leader with Wells Fargo Insurance’s Employee Benefits Consulting Group, the county’s insurance consultant, told commissioners during their Wednesday-morning meeting projected increases in medical and dental costs for 2013 point to a “modest” increase of 3 percent in the county’s medical plan and 12 percent in its dental plan.
If implemented, projected increases would include pretax costs of $16.85 per month for individual employees, $33.63 for employees plus one, and $43.65 for families on the county’s base medical plan, which has a $1,000 deductible. For the county’s “buy-up” plan, which has a $500 deductible, the increases would be $18.40 for single employees, $36.72 for employee plus one and $47.66 per month for families.
Projected dental increases would be $11.65, $12.93 and $13.81 a month for each group.
“Our primary consideration here is giving our employees affordable health care with quality benefits,” Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said. “The last thing we want to do is create more burden for anyone, but health insurance has become ridiculously expensive.
“There will be pain for our employees, but there is pain on both sides. We have not increased employee costs in the last three years, but in this economic climate we have to take steps like this to assure continued balance. We want to continue to take care of our employees, as difficult as it has become.”
Allen announced the recommendations during an update of the county’s group health plan.
“The last time the county increased its employee premiums was July 1, 2010,” Allen told the board. “The Insurance Review Committee felt that the best course was to incorporate modest premium increases rather than make benefit changes.”
The recommendations were met with a degree of skepticism from most on the commission.
“I’m concerned about the impact this is going to have on our employees,” District 2 Commissioner John Hayes said. “Did the committee give any consideration to phasing these changes in rather than dropping them on our employees all at one time?”
However, District 1 Commissioner Lamar Hudgins reminded others at the table that the county’s insurance woes ran much deeper not too long ago.
“We have to remember we’re not too far removed from the city and Water, Gas & Light running the insurance and we get an ‘Oh, by the way ...’ and find out we had to cough up a million bucks,” Hudgins said.
Sinyard, too made reference to the joint city/county/WG&L insurance fiasco.
“We’ve made significant changes since we found out our insurance was two and a half million dollars in the hole,” the chairman said. “We managed to dig out of that by modifying our plan and by developing a wellness program that promoted better health among our employees. Of course, we also found out we were insuring 60 folks who were not even our employees, so we purged our rolls and worked to develop a sound plan.
“Insurance is one of the most feared expenses in the business world today; health insurance has created some incredible difficulties for businesses and for agencies like the county. We’re trying to maintain and keep quality health care in place for our employees.”
District 4 Commissioner Ewell Lyle said he’d like to see some concessions made for employees covered under the county’s family plan.
“I have a problem with people under the family plan being punished,” he said. “But I also believe our employees have to know what we’re facing. That’s how we got in trouble in the past, by trying to insulate our employees from health care increases.”
To which Hudgins added: “That and the fact the city was running things.”
Commissioner Gloria Gaines sought and received consensus backing for smaller increases in the county’s dental plan, which could reduce increases to “less than $5 a month.”