Press-Republican

November 3, 2013

Franklin County's health costs growing

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Franklin County will pay $1 million more in health-insurance costs in 2014, which means benefit recipients will have to pay more, too. 

And if costs continue to climb in the next several years, as experts predict, the county may have to stop offering health coverage to some of its retirees.

Also, starting next year, some retirees will pay more because they have not been charged enough for medical coverage the past three years.

And others may find cheaper insurance if they explore alternatives like the Excellus Advantage Medicare plan, which could save participants $50 a month, and provisions in the federal government’s Affordable Care Act.

Informational sessions will be held in November for those who have questions about their coverage options, but no dates have been set.

PAY SCHEDULE

During a special meeting Monday, legislators adopted a new pay schedule for active union and jail-union employees, retirees younger than age 65 and retirees 65 and older.

Active United Public Service Employees union members, which include about 500 county workers, contribute 10 percent toward their health insurance, and new hires pay 15 percent.

Jail employees pay 10 percent for health-care coverage, but they do not have a new contract with the county and are not under the same medical plan as the larger union.

The county tried to bring the sheriff’s union into the larger union’s health plan during negotiations for a new contract, and the union approved that move.

But legislators rejected the pact because of a new category for hazard pay that would have included what they said was an unacceptable 4.5 percent raise the final year.

Discussions now go to a factfinder, and a recommended settlement will be offered.

RATE CHANGES

In the meantime, the county budget needs to be adopted and final health-insurance numbers plugged in before the spending plan goes before the public.

Another deadline comes from Personnel Director Paul Duffee, whose office must send letters to all plan participants about rate changes within 60 days of when the new rates go into effect.

He said the rate changes “spread out and make it fair for everybody,” since in the past, retirees under 65 had not been charged enough for their medical coverage.

“In the past, we’ve undercharged early retirees, and actives have subsidized them,” said County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz.

He said the county will pay about $7 million for employee and retiree health care in 2014, which is $1 million more than this year.

“If costs increase like this in the next five years, the county would have to deliberate whether to provide it to retirees,” Leitz said.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com

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COVERAGE PLAN                                 2013 COST      2014 COST    MONTHLY INCREASE

Sheriff's Dept. Union (family):           $22,940            $27,042       $34

 Sheriff's Dept. Union (individual):    $8,290             $9,865          $13 

Employees Union (family)                $17,316         $19,756          $20 

Employees Union (individual):       $6,317             $7.207           $7.40 

Retirees, under 65 (family):           $5,400             $5,920            $43 

Retirees, under 65

(with spouse/dependent):             $4,663             $5,113            $37. 

Retirees, under 65 (individual):   $2,332             $2,557           $18.75 

Retirees 65 and up

with Medicare (family):                  $4,631           $5,496             $72 

Retirees 65 and up with Medicare

(with spouse/dependent):          $4,318            $4,775            $38 

Retirees 65 and up with Medicare (individual): $2,159 $2,388 $19