County workers will get healthy or pay more for health care insurance

Grady County employees are going to have to adopt healthier lifestyles or face pain in their wallets following action taken by the county commission Thursday.
County leaders met with John Taylor, executive vice president of Taylor Benefit Resource, and Ron Arline, insurance broker, to discuss changes to the county’s self-insured health benefit plan.
Following the lead of other local governments, including the city of Cairo, Grady County commissioners are looking to penalize employees who do not take care of themselves or treat chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes by forcing them to meet higher deductibles for their health insurance.
The wellness program proposed by Taylor Benefit Resource targets high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, LDL cholesterol levels and use of tobacco products.
Currently, the county offers a bridge policy for county workers that covers $500 of the standard $1,500 deductible for outpatient medical procedures and $1,000 of the deductible if the employee is admitted into the hospital.
If a county employee smokes or uses tobacco under the new wellness plan, he or she will have a $1,750 annual deductible. If that same employee also has untreated high blood pressure, the deductible increases to $2,000 and up to $250 for each untreated condition to a maximum of $2,500.
According to Grady County Clerk Carrie Kines, 100 percent of county employees have had an annual wellness exam during the last two years.
County employees who have annual health screenings do not pay anything for their health insurance, but if they fail to do so, they are required to pay five percent of the monthly premium.
“We don’t have any that want to pay for their health insurance so they make sure they go for a checkup,” Ms. Kines said.
The new wellness plan takes it up a notch and insurance broker Ron Arline said last week, “This encourages employees to get on medicine and take care of themselves.”
Commissioner T.D. David said, “This is for their health and I think it will be accepted by the employees.”
In addition to having healthier employees, county commissioners are also looking to save on the county’s health insurance expense.
According to Arline, two years into the self-funded plan, the county’s cost is approximately $150,000 less than the total premiums charged by United HealthCare.
“Most of your employees don’t understand that the county is spending over a million dollars a year for their benefits. It’s county money paying for these claims. With this plan, we are looking to cut down on large claims. That’s part of what we are trying to achieve,” John Taylor said.
Arline and Taylor are projecting annual savings under the wellness plan of approximately $32,000 a year.
“They’ve (the employees) got a good thing and if they don’t take advantage of this, they need to be penalized,” Commissioner Elwyn Childs said.
Taylor and Arline said that as long as an employee demonstrates he or she is doing something to lower blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and cut out tobacco, they will work with that employee. Otherwise, the employee will have to pay for their poor health choices.
“It’s forced accountability. We wish we didn’t have to do that, but in this day and time, unfortunately we do. But this is a way of getting people to think about it,” Taylor said.
Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to implement the wellness plan effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Clerk Kines reported this week that screenings for the county’s 120 employees would be held during the week of Aug. 17. During the two-day event, county employees can have a complimentary physical, but Ms. Kines said that employees who have already had screenings by their doctor or plan to do so before the end of the year are not required to participate.
“We have employees who faithfully go to the doctor and they don’t have to do both,” Ms. Kines said.
Kines, Taylor and Arline will meet with county employees to explain the new plan prior to its implementation in 2016.

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