ARP Funds Could Reduce Health Insurance Costs for Branch County Employees
Branch County could use U.S. bailout funding to top up employee health insurance for 2022, after some saw a 62% increase in the cost of premiums.
The suggestion comes from a recommendation by a committee made up of District Judge Brent Weigle, Sheriff John Pollack and County Administrator Bud Norman, after receiving complaints from employees.
Due to high claims, increased utilization, and increased drug use over the past two years, there have been significant increases in employee premiums to maintain coverage.
While it appears that ARP funding from federal COVID-19 funds may be used, it could be a violation of state law regarding health care coverage. The county uses the “hard cap” system, in which costs are capped at the state level. All raises are the responsibility of the employees.
Norman asked Sen. Mike Shirkey to get an attorney general’s opinion on the legality and consequences of ARP surcharges, if it would affect the cap rule.
Norman also asked Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the insurance provider, to consider two additional plans, for a total of six, increasing the employee deductible to $2,000/$4,000 and $4,000/8,000 $ to reduce employee expenses.
The administrator said the county’s “rich” plan was deductible at $250, $500 and $1,000, less than most private employers.
Although most of the impact on new Level II employees, the committee also suggested that any supplement apply to all employees.
Weigle said one of his newly hired employees made about $30,000 a year. Insuring his family costs about $500 per month on $6,000, or 20% of his gross salary.
Norman investigated whether employees could apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. He said that if the cost is more than 9.6% of salary, the employee is eligible for the federal subsidy. The formula is based on a single payer, not on families. On a single person basis, the cost to Branch County is 4.3%, too low to qualify.
Pollack said the committee’s recommendations, if adopted, “will help in the short term while we deal with the long-term problem.”
Pollack said part of the problem was that employees were made aware of the increased costs and had only a few days in December to register and little time to research alternatives.
Norman said that by modifying deductibles with new plans, employees could save $290 per year for a single employee, $930 for two people and $1,325 for the family.
If there is an ARP contribution, the savings would be $794, $1,858 and $2,257 respectively.
Commissioners will decide what action to take after receiving advice from the Attorney General.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Reporter: US bailout funds could cut health insurance for county employees