Orange County upgrades benefits for employee recruitment, retention
Culpeper Star-Exponent (VA)
With teacher shortages affecting school systems nationwide, Orange County is aiming to be more competitive in recruiting new county employees by making their benefits package more robust.
At its regular meeting Aug. 9, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved an upgrade to the county's insurance packages, as well as an increase in the amount they would pay for each employee before Stop Loss, or "reinsurance," would kick in.
Orange County is "self-insured," so instead of paying premiums to an insurance company who would then cover the medical benefits cost, the local government cover medical costs for employees directly. This type of insurance is common among counties and organizations with just under 1,000 employees, according to Deputy County Administrator Glenda Bradley.
"We became self-insured beginning in [fiscal year 2014] based on the recommendation of our health insurance consultant at that time," she said. "Anthem administers our program, so the employees are each issued a card that has the Anthem logo and the plan works just like any of their fully-insured plans from the employees' perspective."
Bradley went on to explain that each employee has a stop-loss limit, which for this fiscal year was set at $150,000, that when reached for any individual employee, any further costs would be reimbursed by their insurance provider. For fiscal year 2022- 23, the county is switching from Anthem to Sun Life, and upping stop-loss coverage to $250,000. This change will take place Oct. 1.
While the teacher shortage has been ubiquitous in this country, with very few places left unaffected, Bradley explained that the change comes more as a response to county employees, and trying meeting their needs.
"We have received feedback from employees with families that our contributions to the dependent tiers that cover family members in addition to the employee, were not competitive with other surrounding localities," she said. "With the labor market being especially tight right now, we wanted to take the opportunity to become more competitive when competing for employees in the area."
How this will affect the school system and any existing or potential shortages is yet to be seen. OCPS Human Resources Department's benefit specialist Jen Fox said that with the open enrollment period coming soon, she couldn't comment on the change until they had presented the information to school faculty and staff.
While current employment statistics for 2022 are not yet available, Bradley did make it clear that the nationwide staff vacancies that the entire country has been seeing since coming back from the COVID-19 lockdowns have not spared Orange County. Competing with surrounding counties for employees has become more important than ever.
"Becoming more competitive with one of the largest employee benefits [in the area] will enhance our ability to compete for workers to an even greater extent," Bradley said.