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Uncertain about insurance

County officials mull over companies; employees may have to pay higher premiums

Josh Nichols

The company that provides Moffat County with its insurance is hiking its rates 20 percent and county employees might take it in the pocketbook.

Right now, county employees with a single-person policy pay nothing per month in premium charges. That will likely go up to $50, said county health insurance board chairperson Linda DeRose.

A family pays $80 a month, and that will likely increase to $130, she said.

The deductible for singles per year right now is $175 and that will increase to $300. A family must pay $300 per year right now, and that will increase to $900.

The potential increase has left the county commissioners and health insurance board members scrambling to find out if better deals are available with other companies.

Under its current plan with Sloans Lake Managed Care, the county is self insured, meaning it pays the first $50,000 of all employees medical expenses.

The company picks up the tab on anything greater than $50,000.

While it can be cheaper for the county to do business this way in years when few employees need medical care, it is more expensive in years when many employees get sick or injured.

Moffat County Administrative Services Director Deb Murray has said she budgets $2.1 million annually to cover potential insurance claims by employees.

“If we don’t budget for the worst case, we put ourselves at risk of potential problems,” she has said. “You don’t know when someone is going to get cancer, have a heart attack or have a baby prematurely.”

This has been a costly year for claims with the county currently showing a $143,00 deficit for the year, Murray said in a meeting last week.

“At the beginning of the year, it looked good but we’ve had some major cases since then,” she said.

The combination of increased rates and more insurance claims has spurred county officials to investigate other insurance providers.

Before the budget is finalized in December, the county must decide if it wants to stay with same company and raise its employee rates, or look for business elsewhere.

Currently, the county is investigating County Technical Services Incorporated (CTSI), which is an insurance company formed by a pool of counties that have come together to provide their employees with insurance.

The county is going to hold off as long as it can before it makes a decision of going with Sloans Lake this fiscal year.

“I’d feel really bad if we said, ‘This is how it’s going to be,’ then CTSI came back and gave us a good deal,” Moffat County Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson said in a budget workshop this week.

The county is running out of time to make changes this year, said Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, but said the county needs to investigate other options in 2003.

“What I would like to see after Jan. 1 is that we hire an outside consultant to analyze some health plans for us and look at each issue so we’re ahead of the game,” she said in a budget workshop this week.

Health insurance is going up everywhere, she said.

“This is an issue being faced by everyone in the United States,” Raftopoulos said. “We’re not alone.”

Health insurance board member Donna Watkins said under the current plan, the county has no choice but to raise employees’ rates.

“We have held off this increase on the employees as long as we possibly can,” she said.

Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.


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