Mon County Commission approves new insurance premiums

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. The Monongalia County Commission has agreed to new terms for health and dental insurance premiums for county employees.

Changes to the premium rates for employees as part of the coverage provided by Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield will include premium rates that will total $5.6 million, an increase of just over two percent. The Commission agreed to cover the majority of the costs, but employees are expected to pay around $17 per month effective August 1 as part of the new healthcare plan.

“It’s important to note that for the last seven years we’ve had, by and large, every increase absorbed by the county, and it just became a point where the increases were so drastic every year, it wasn’t viable to continue,” said Commissioner Jeff Arnett.

The changes to premium costs were negotiated down from what could’ve been a twenty percent across-the-board increase that would’ve cost the county an extra $1 million. As part of the negotiations, the commission agreed to cover ninety-two percent of premium costs, with employees covering the other eight that will account for increases in co-pays, prescription plans, and healthcare coverage that requires higher deductibles. As part of the agreement, the commission saved approximately $880,000 in premium costs, while coverage for the majority of employees is expected to have little to no changes to their respective plans.

“Mainly, the changes would be felt by those who utilize the insurance the most,” said Arnett. “Ninety percent. “Eighty percent of our employees won’t feel much at all about the change,” he said.

The Commission also agreed to contribute $2,000 per employee via a health savings plan for anyone who participates in the high-deductible health plan to account for large-scale healthcare costs. The goal for the commission is to maintain the near-full compensation of premium increases that has been achieved for the past seven years and prevent county employees from facing the brunt of insurance premium increases that have been seen in private sector industries across the Mountain State.

“Most corporate entities, which we consider our competitors for recruiting employees, if there’s an increase, it just gets passed on to the employee at a one hundred percent rate; we try really hard not to do that,” said Arnett.

Despite the changes to health and dental premiums, the Monongalia County Commission still expects to cover as close to one hundred percent of premium increases for county employees as they have in the past. Over the past six years, the commission has covered insurance premium increases that have totaled over $1.5 million and avoided contentious splits in coverage such as the PEIA 80/20 employer-employee change implemented this year. While they expect premiums to continue to see dramatic year-over-year increases, the commission also hopes to continue to supplement as many costs as possible for county employees.

“The county still pays 92.4 percent of the overall premiums for health insurance, which equates to about $17,000 per employee that we pay per year,” said Commissioner Sean Sikora.