DOVER — Concerns over rising health care costs have put the Kent County budget process on hold until Levy Court obtains more information on how to reduce those costs moving forward.
Currently in the proposed budget, which was presented Tuesday night, the county’s health insurance costs are projected to increase by 20 percent. The county uses Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware for its insurance.
“They said our claims were high this year, which was the reason for the increase,” said Allan Kujala, personnel director for the county. “We asked for alternate plans that the commissioners can go over that will be beneficial to everyone.”
Currently, the county pays $2.6 million for health care, but if the current proposal stays in place it would be about $3.1 million.
“That’s about a $555,000 to $600,000 increase,” Mr. Kujala said.
Health care and dental benefits are available to all full-time active employees.
The county also provides post-retirement health care benefits to all employees who retire from active service with the county government.
On July 1, employees and non-Medicare eligible retirees enrolling in health insurance coverage will pay $30 a month in advance for individual coverage, or as provided by the county policy.
“If that 21 percent stays in place then that may be an estimate of about $6 dollars added to the $30 that’s deducted each month,” Mr. Kujala said.
In addition to individual coverage rate, employees may purchase offered health insurance coverage for dependents at established rates, less the value assigned to full individual-only coverage plus 60 percent of the remaining cost or $175.
Employees must pay the established nominal premium for dental benefits or opt out of dental coverage. They also may purchase dependent coverage at the established family rate payable in advance.
Mr. Kujala said health insurance is complex.
“I know the commissioners don’t want an increase, which is why they want to explore other options, so that doesn’t happen,” Mr. Kujala said.
Commissioner Eric Buckson agreed.
“All employer health care costs are rising across the country,” he said. “We have to make sure that we manage these costs. We’re trying to get everything figured out before we finalize the budget.”
He said the county has to make the best decision moving forward.
“Last year we asked the employers to contribute to the health costs and once we get the numbers then we have to figure out if we’re going to have to ask them for more,” Commissioner Buckson said. “It appears that the numbers are going to be quite high and we have to continue to ask ourselves if we’re able to afford what we’re doing now.”
Mr. Kujala said there are two alternatives that may help resolve the issue.
“I know they’re discussing a 90/10 plan and an 80/20 plan,” he said.
For the 90/10 plan the employee would pay the 10 percent and the county and High Mark will pay the rest. The same type of logic works goes for the 80/20 plan as well.”
He said the commissioners are doing everything they can to avoid the potential increase.
“During the meeting on Tuesday we should have all the different options from Highmark, so they can see what they want to do moving forward,” Mr. Kujala said.
Commissioner Buckson said it’s going to be a tough decision.
“The numbers will tell us a correct path forward moving forward,” he said. “We have to see what the expected revenues are to pay for these costs. We have to make the right decisions for us and make some adjustments if we have to.”