County employees’ insurance still in place

By Tim Colliver - [email protected]

Health insurance coverage for Highland County employees is still in place following an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon of the Highland County commissioners, who approved a motion to extend the open enrollment period for traditional insurance coverage and to pick up a premium increase that should have been deducted from Friday’s paycheck.

As previously reported, commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton met in executive session Wednesday afternoon with insurance brokers Reynolds/Brown, pertaining to health insurance and adding the option of Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for county employees.

According to Medical Mutual, health insurance providers for the county, an HSA is a tax-advantaged account created for individuals who are covered under high-deductible health plans to save for medical expenses the provider does not cover.

“After the meeting was adjourned, they came to us with some updated details,” Duncan said. “We felt like we needed to act on it since we were getting a lot of calls from employees with questions about what was posed in yesterday’s meeting.”

Britton said the county was facing an enrollment deadline of Friday, which necessitated Thursday’s emergency commissioners meeting, “to clean up some business that came about after yesterday’s meeting.”

Abernathy said it was in regard to an alternative for county employees to have Health Savings Accounts instead of traditional insurance, and that insurance brokers for the county met with employees in two separate meetings to gauge interest in the proposal.

He said there was interest, but many questions and a looming deadline of Friday if the county wanted to employ the HSAs. But Medical Mutual agreed to extend the cutoff date until Jan. 1.

“That’ll give Belinda and Dave of Reynolds/Brown time to come back down later in the year and meet with the different departments,” Abernathy said. “They can explain it more fully and answer more questions, and then employees will have a chance to make the decision if they want to switch from the traditional plan to an HSA.”

The only thing set in stone was a previously reported 4.9-percent increase in premiums. But due to the uncertainty and last minute nature of the health insurance issue, Abernathy said that while normal employee deductions were made the past 12 months, they should have increased by 4.9 percent for Friday’s paycheck.

“So their next paycheck later in the month will include a 4.9 percent increase they will pay going forward,” he said. “But they won’t have the increase that should have been added this week.”

In a motion put forth at the close of Thursday’s emergency session, commissioners approved the county paying for the premium increase for Friday’s check, saying it was not the employees’ fault for the 11th hour nature of negotiations with the health insurance provider.

Abernathy said that the cost to the county would be in the range of $1,200.

Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.

By Tim Colliver

[email protected]