Insurance Policy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Health insurance plan cuts costs to county, employees

By Billy Davis

A new health insurance plan chosen by county supervisors Monday will add $49 a month to employees’ paychecks and also drop the county’s monthly premium by $7,000.

The county board voted 4-0 to switch to insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield and drop United Healthcare.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The new policy, which begins April 1, will cost county government $479 a month for each employee who enrolls.

The employees’ savings is realized since the new Blue Cross policy does not include an employee contribution for a single policy, which costs $49.54 under United Healthcare for a $1,500 deductible.

The new Blue Cross plan drops an employee’s yearly deductible from $1,500 to $750.

The plan also saves a family $99 a month over the United Healthcare plan, with the county paying $851 a month for family coverage. The employee’s portion is $372 monthly for family coverage.

Insurance agent Kirk Scoggins of Ridgeland presented five plans to the county board, telling supervisors that any Blue Cross plan is better than United, which was the source of frequent complaints.

“I’m 100 percent confident in all of these options,” he said.

The county’s new insurance affects approximately 120 employees who are currently enrolled in United and another 45 employees who also include a spouse, child or family on the plan.

The Blue Cross plan also affects the county’s tight budget, since it drops the county’s monthly payment from $87,528 to $80,515. That adds up to a yearly savings of $84,156.

Panola County government stood to save as much as $156,000 annually with a so-called “dual option” plan, with included deductibles of $1,500 or $750. But supervisors said the $49 amounts to an annual raise for county employees, who have gone without a raise for two years.

“Employees have to understand that you’re giving them a raise through this insurance,” Chancery Clerk Jim Pitcock told supervisors. “You may have to remind them of that in August.”

Supervisors had already decided to drop United in favor of Blue Cross when they reconvened Monday to decide among several Blue Cross plans.

Scoggins had presented rates from Blue Cross after a six-month period showed a decrease in county claims under United Healthcare. Even with the promising figures, insurer Aetna turned down coverage for the county and insurer Humana quoted the same rates, Scoggins said.

Panola County government had dropped Humana for United Healthcare when Humana, after losing money for two years, quoted a 47-percent rate hike. United was the only insurer to submit a quote.

Board president Gary Thompson recused himself from Monday’s vote because his son is an employee of the county, though the supervisor did participate in discussion of the insurance plans.