Lincoln County prepares for insurance hike

Published 9:57 pm Monday, March 18, 2019

The county’s insurance agent dropped a financial bomb on the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors Monday — a 25 percent rate increase from United Healthcare — but also suggested a solution for the fallout.

Sylvia King said not only has United Healthcare not increased rates for Lincoln County in several years, but health insurance tax across the board is also causing insurance rates to rise because of the Affordable Health Care Act.

“It’s hitting everybody — individual contracts, Medicare supplements, everything — making everybody’s rates go up,” she said.

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While county employees will see no change on their vision rates, they will be hit with a dental insurance increase of 78 cents per employee and $1.55 on dependents.

Health insurance rates will see the highest increase though. Part of that is United Healthcare is one of the few agencies that will even play ball with King when it comes to covering Lincoln County.

She said three county employees have claims totaling $500,000 right now, but did not identify them.

“I tried to get Blue Cross to give a quote, they refused,” she said. “They did not want to quote. All they did was look at the health conditions and the rate increase and refuse to quote.”

She recommends a few changes, such as increasing co-pays $5 for basic visits and $15 for specialty visits.

Emergency room visits will no longer have a co-pay. It will be part of the out of pocket expense and go toward the deductible, she said.

“United Healthcare, like most carriers, are trying to stop people from using the ER as their doctor because they don’t want to take off work,” she said. “So they go to the ER and we have a $2,000 bill where we could have had a $180 bill.”

She also said the deductible would increase to $5,000 in-network, and $10,000 out-of-network.

However, she also brought in Richard Cothern, president of Gulf Guaranty, who pitched a MedPlus plan to supervisors. MedPlus plans are specifically designed to mirror major medical plan benefits and act as true secondary health insurance, all while lowering the employee’s deductible, reducing out of pocket exposure, and saving employer cost.

“This is something I brought up to y’all last year and y’all weren’t interested in looking at it, but I went ahead and brought it this year because we could save money,” she said.

Of the 139 employees on the United Healthcare plan — that’s 100 percent eligible and enrolled — 31 employees added spouses to their plan, 15 employees added children only and 16 have family coverage with spouse and children. Seventy-seven employees cover only themselves.

Employees will likely see an increase of $103 for family coverage, $42 for employee-child coverage and $60 for employee-spouse coverage.

The savings come from adding the MedPlus plan, which will counter the renewal rate increase of 25 percent from United Healthcare.

Without it, the county could see an increase of $448,000.

“Where we see the big savings is the change from the renewal rate. When we talk about saving $448,000 it’s not from what we’re currently paying, it’s what the new rate would be if we renewed that plan as is,” County Administrator David Fields said.

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey questioned why King didn’t suggest a MedPlan option previously.

“Why wasn’t this presented year before last, last year,” he said.

“I mentioned it to y’all and y’all didn’t want to look at it,” she said.

Falvey wasn’t convinced the board had ever been shown the savings, but King was adamant they wouldn’t know what the savings would be unless a company came in and made the pitch. She said supervisors hadn’t been interested in hearing the pitch.

“If we could save this much this year, how much could we have saved in the past years that we didn’t do this?” he said.

“I have no idea. A company has to come in and bring the proposal but I brought it up to y’all,” she said.

“We were looking to you to bring us the best price on insurance that you could give us. What I see here is you haven’t done that,” he said.

“I tried to get y’all to let me bring this in and y’all didn’t want to see it. I tried to bring this in multiple years that nobody wanted to look at,” she said.

Fields said King had tried to bring options in the past, but the thought of a $5,000 deductible may have scared the board before hearing how that deductible could be lowered through the use of the supplemental insurance.

District 1 Supervisor and Board President Jerry Wilson broke up the disagreement.

“Well, we’ve got it now. And we’re starting right now,” he said. “And right now, back there all that’s under water, under the bridge.  Ain’t nothing we can do with that.” What all in the past is the past and this is now.”

Supervisors held off on making any decisions and tabled the issue until March 25 at 9 a.m. They plan to hear a pitch from another insurance agent who is coming at 10 a.m. that day at Falvey’s request.

Fields reminded supervisors a decision needs to be made soon because open enrollment beings April 1 and continues through the month. Letters will be sent later this month letting employees know of potential rate increases. Any new rates will begin coming out of paychecks on April 15.