Calhoun County employees to pay more for their health insurance
by Laura Johnson
lbjohnson@annistonstar.com
Sep 20, 2012 | 4282 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Calhoun County employees’ insurance premiums will increase 4.5 percent next month because the dollar value of insurance claims rose by nearly a third last year, reflecting the additional cost of the care employees sought, county officials say.

The increase will add up to $10 per month for employees on the county’s family plan and $4.68 for employees on individual plans. It’s the first rate increase since 2008, when rates increased by 1.5 percent, said Brian Conary, an employee who chairs the Calhoun County Insurance Committee.

Calhoun County has been able to hold down the cost of premiums for several years but is increasing them now to make up for the increasing cost of claims, Conary said.

“We’ve tried to prevent that as long as we can, but it’s just got to the point where there is no other choice,” Conary said.

Between June 2011 and May 2012 Calhoun County employees’ claims totaled $1.6 million. During the same time period the year before, they totaled $1.2 million.

The difference was enough for the county’s Insurance Committee to raise premiums for the next fiscal year, Conary said.

According to Conary and Calhoun County Adminstrator Ken Joiner, the insurance claims rose sharply, in part, due to claims filed for four county employees. Those claims, the men said, totaled about $300,000.

Some employees have already received verbal notification of the price increase and all county employees will receive written notification of the increase with their next paycheck, county officials said.

Calhoun County subscribes to a self-insurance plan, supplying health insurance with funds it receives from employees. That is different from fully insured plans in which employers outsource health insurance coverage to a health insurance company.

Employers who offer self-insurance plans are typically able to provide lower premiums to employees and have more control over how the plan is administered than do major insurance companies, said Michael O’Malley, executive director of the Alabama Association of Health Plans.

Even with the increase, the county employees’ insurance plans are lower than the national average. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average cost of a family health insurance plan in America is $15,745.

The cost for a family health insurance plan for a Calhoun County employee is $7,111.44.

“They’re getting a heck of a deal,” O’Malley said. “Everybody’s rates are going up.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health insurance premium costs have nearly doubled in the past decade. In 2002 the average cost of an insurance plan for a single worker would have been $3,083. Now it’s $5,615.

The average cost of insurance for a family plan was $8,003 ten years ago. Now it’s $15,745.

County employees pay 40 percent of the annual cost, while the county pays 60 percent of the annual cost of its health insurance plans.

Star staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter@LJohnson_Star.

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