County health insurance rates up 23 percent

“It’s ugly out there in the health insurance world, just ugly,” the county’s health insurance broker Sandy Scheuermann to the board of supervisors Monday morning.

“Ugly” for Greene County translates to an increase of $1.7 million – 23 percent – in the county’s health insurance for the new year. The increase for the current year was 27 percent.

The increase in cost is even with discontinuing a $500 deductible option, effective Dec. 31. As a cost-savings measure last year, as union contracts were negotiated a year ago, the low deductible was replaced with a $1,500 deductible option. Employees can now elect either a $1,000 or $1,500 deductible.

Also, effective next July 1, employees on an individual plan will pay 5 percent of their premium cost rather than the 2.5 percent they’re paying now. Employees insuring spouses and/or children will continue to pay 15 percent of the premium cost.

The increase is particularly challenging because the higher cost is effective Jan. 1, meaning part of the increase must be paid during the current fiscal year (ending June 30). County auditor Jane Heun said that large of an increase was not planned for when the budget was set.

Scheuermann called finding renewal rates this year the most challenging of her 29 years in the business.

“In the insurance world there’s no winning right now,” board chair John Muir said.

The supervisors deferred making a decision on the renewal to the Dec. 4 meeting.

The supervisors also as part of their Nov. 27 agenda participated in a webinar with Pete Coen about Teledoc’s “Healthiest You” program.

“Healthiest You” allows persons to access medical advice and even prescriptions via a smart phone, computer, tablet or land line telephone. Licensed doctors are able to diagnose and prescribe based on the call, saving doctor’s office or emergency room visits. According to Coen, 71 percent of the emergency room visits that are eventually paid through employer-sponsored insurance are unnecessary.

Additionally, the BestDoc® part of “Healthiest You” provides a network of specialists to review diagnoses and/or provide a second opinion. BestDoc physicians provide a different diagnosis in 39 percent of the cases they review, at an average savings of $36,000 per case, Coen said.

The cost of Teledoc’s programs was not provided. Health insurance specialist Terry Lang, who works with Scheuermann, will provide costs at the Dec. 4 meeting.

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