GRADY COUNTY Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson, III has recommended changes to the county’s health insurance plan to cut costs.
The “Cadillac” health insurance package offered to Grady County workers is being modified in order to reduce costs, and county employees will now actually be paying for a portion of their monthly health insurance premium.
On Tuesday night, Grady County Administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, told Grady County commissioners and a large audience, including many employees of the county, that he is looking to cover an approximately $1.6 million deficit in the proposed 2020 operating budget.
According to Johnson, without any changes to the county’s health insurance benefit plan an additional $600,000 is needed to adequately fund the county’s self-insurance fund.
“Our insurance benefit is amazing. I don’t want to see it cut or taken away, but it is costing taxpayers a lot of money,” Johnson said.
The county administrator said currently the county is paying $700 per month per employee for health insurance and the employee pays nothing. Johnson proposed implementing a $25 per month premium to be paid by employees for single coverage.
Deductibles for county workers is currently $500 and Johnson recommended increasing it to $2,500. With a wellness discount the employee’s deductible would be $1,500. Johnson also recommended an increase in the deductible for family coverage from $2,500 to $7,500 and with the wellness discount it would drop to $4,500.
Johnson said one recommendation he would “dig in his heels” about was a proposed nicotine use surcharge of $40 per month for the first year; $80 per month the second year and $120 per month the third year for employees who continue to smoke, dip or chew tobacco or vape.
Johnson said he did not dislike people who use tobacco products, but said those who do were not going to be as healthy as those employees who don’t. “I need you healthy and at work,” Johnson said.
The county administrator also proposed a $600 copay for non-emergency copay in an attempt to eliminate county personnel going to the Emergency Room for non-emergency ailments.
Lastly, Johnson proposed adding a $300 prescription copay for specialty drugs.
County employees present were allowed to speak on the proposed insurance changes.
One road department employee described the proposal as an “insult.” An Emergency Medical Service employee had a different opinion and said that $25 per month is not a lot for the county to ask its workers to pay for health insurance. “They are trying. Give them a break,” she said.
Another EMS worker also praised the county’s benefit package, but requested the county negotiate to get assistance with the cost of medical supplies such as masks for C-pap machines, which she said have to be purchased each month.
A road department employee also stated that the benefit plan was a major draw for people to work for the county.
The county administrator said that even with the proposed changes the insurance plan offered to county workers would continue to be “great insurance.”
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also heard a presentation by Ron Arline of Madison Street Agency and John Taylor of Taylor Benefit Resource, the broker and third party administrator of the county’s self-funded insurance program for the last six years, Joey Hester of Hester Insurance Agency and Mary Beth Donalson of Diversified Benefit Administrators also made a presentation to serve as the broker and third party administrator.
Both Taylor and Donalson presented proposals to the county that could reduce expenses, but Taylor also outlined that some changes proposed by his competitors could reduce the county’s fixed cost, but the amount that could be required in cost of claims could exceed the savings.
Commissioner June Knight questioned why the board could not table the matter and discuss at a future meeting, even a called meeting if necessary. Commission Vice Chairman Keith Moye said he was prepared to make a decision now.
After much discussion, Moye offered a motion to approve the changes recommended by the administrator with the exception of the premiums for employee and spouse and full family coverage. Moye’s motion was for employee and spouse premium to go from $200 per month to $250 rather than the $300 recommended by Johnson and for full family to increase from $300 per month to $350 per month rather than $400 per month as proposed by the administrator.
Commissioner Phillip Drew seconded the motion and it passed 3-2 with Chairwoman LaFaye Copeland and Commissioner Knight voting against.
Moye then made a motion to continue doing business with Madison Street Agency and Taylor Benefit Resources, which Drew also seconded. That motion passed 4-1 with Commissioner Knight voting in opposition.
Open enrollment begins Aug. 7 and the benefit year begins on Sept. 1, according to county clerk John White. The board’s action Tuesday night clears the way for the new plan to be implemented Sept. 1.
“I appreciate all of our county employees. I realize insurance is a big deal, but the county needs money,” Chairwoman Copeland said.
In other business Tuesday night, the board:
Heard a request from Commissioner Drew to allow a local group to solicit and raise funds to erect signs at Barber Park honoring current and past championship teams. The board approved the request contingent on no county funds being invested in the project and recreation director Becky Bracewell approving the signs and their placement in advance.
Authorized administrator Johnson to work through the appropriate channels and solicit state funding to assist with the paving of State Park Road, the main entrance into Tired Creek Lake.
Authorized payment of three invoices from consulting engineer Stacy Watkins for engineering services on local road projects totaling $10,784.00. One of the invoices paid Tuesday night was the final invoice on the Old 179 full depth reclamation project. All told, Watkins was paid $53,400 for his services on this project. Additionally, for the Old 179 culvert extensions project, Watkins was paid a total of $51,125. The engineer was also paid a grand total of $16,100 for preliminary engineering work on Open Pond Road. According to the county administrator, this work was paid for out of the county’s general fund.