Employees have overused their health insurance plans with higher-than-normal trips to emergency rooms. Their premiums have risen as their wages were increasing. The supervisors last year supported returning 9 percent in wages that workers lost in 2011 because of budget cuts. But the raises are being gobbled up by higher insurance premiums.
The problem could cost the county millions to solve as employees already pay large chunks of their earnings for employer health insurance coverage.
Supervisors discussed the problem Tuesday and will return next week to take action on higher premiums and possibly add two new plans to put costs in check. The new premiums go into effect in December.
"All options are on the table," said
"The supervisors are concerned about the numbers they are seeing," said
To cover those costs, the county has to raise employee premiums by 11.7 percent to 16 percent, depending upon the plan. The bulk of the money would likely come from employees unless higher county contributions are put into place.
When insurance rates are higher, Rousseau said, the employees suffer and the county becomes less competitive in attracting top candidates.
"It makes it hard to recruit and we're losing some top people to neighboring counties," he said. "To build a good organization, you need good people, and to have good people you have to have good benefits and salaries."
A major issue, he said, is the number of people going to emergency rooms for treatment, the most costly level of care.
The county will try to educate employees to dissuade them from going to emergency rooms in favor of urgent care, 24-hour health lines and online health options or building a health clinic for county employees in areas where they work in high concentrations, officials said.
Anthem, which covers the bulk of county employees, identified about
Also, there were 50 specialty medications that accounted for 34 percent of overall drug costs, and the top 25 of all employees enrolled accounted for 1 percent of total claims and 22 percent of drug spending, according to county documents.
Under most plans, employee-only rates will rise about
The bulk of employees with employee-only plans will pay about
The county's contribution to employees is
To have to pay that much is "unconscionable," he said. "It's unacceptable."
Ways to save
Union officials are suggesting changes that could save money, such as the on-site clinic, an improved wellness program and a diabetes management program since 16 percent of employees listed it as a chronic condition.
County and union officials say the top concerns are: asthma; obesity; high blood pressure; access to healthy food; cholesterol and diabetes. Other issues cited were lower back problems, digestive issues, stress, anxiety and depression.
"When workers can't afford basic health care, those (county) services suffer," he said. "Lower employee contributions put health care out of reach for
Talford said he pays more than
"They can pretty much go where they want," Godinho said of the workers he represents. "I beg you to do something about these increases. Don't put that additional tax on employees. That's what it is, it's a tax... there's no way these employees can absorb this kind of cost."
-- In other action, supervisors approved buying 4.5 acres of land at
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