Cape County Commission approves self-funded health insurance

Friday, November 16, 2012

Facing a nearly 9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance for employees in 2013, Cape Girardeau County commissioners Thursday approved moving to a self-funded plan after a committee reviewed market options.

County Clerk Kara Clark Summers led the committee of officeholders, which, with the help of a benefits consultant, determined a $40,000 savings could be realized next year if the county:

* Stopped using an insurance company to provide benefits.

* Instead, asked employees to shop for the best prices on medical services.

* Used a third-party for administration of its own plan.

Renewal of a contract with Coventry Health Care, the county's current provider, would have cost nearly $1.4 million in 2013.

Under the new plan, money that would have gone to the insurance company now will come back into the county's accounts.

Last week, Summers said about 140 employees covered by the Coventry plan won't see any changes in their insurance aside from needing to look for the lowest possible cost for needed services and procedures.

"They are going to have to shop around if we are going to provide health care coverage like we do now," Summers said.

The committee approached other health insurance companies for cost comparisons, but found none could come close to the rate offered by the current provider. Successful negotiations of a lower rate also were deemed unlikely, Summers said.

Commissioner Paul Koeper said educating employees about the changes would produce the most benefit for the county budget and its employees.

County employees who qualify for benefits receive a fully paid premium.

Officials argue

A request for a personnel change in the office of County Collector Diane Diebold briefly turned into a heated exchange between Diebold and Commissioner Jay Purcell.

Diebold approached commissioners with a request to give an employee full-time status through the end of 2013 on the condition the employee would be shared with the recorder's office for half the year. Purcell said he did not believe now was the appropriate time for the request since the county would review and set next year's fiscal budget in six weeks, which is the usual time each officeholder's budget is examined and changes are made.

Diebold said the employee had been working full-time hours during the election and there was an intent to keep him on staff after resignations and the approach of tax season. Recorder Scott R. Clark said the office needs the employee during the months the collector's office is not as busy, although he told Purcell he was not making a formal request to go along with Diebold's.

Purcell on Thursday accused county officeholders of overspending. He pointed to a $425,000 tax increase approved in September by Koeper and Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy.

He said they were presented with a proposal to levy a property tax that is allowed by state statute but had not been charged to county residents since 1982. County officeholders say costs have risen while revenue has declined or leveled off, causing the county's unencumbered balance to fall several years in a row.

"Everybody has put pen to paper," Diebold responded, referring to the way officeholders have handled their budgets in recent years.

County officeholders have not been hiring new employees to fill open positions. Instead, they have been handing more duties to remaining employees, giving small raises and sharing employees between offices.

After their exchange, which ended with Diebold telling Purcell she was "tired of arguing with someone who is like a brick wall and won't listen," a motion was made to approve the employee's full-time status through the end of this year and to re-evaluate the status of the position. It was approved by Tracy and Koeper; Purcell voted against it.

Commissioners also approved spending $3,502.96 for new equipment in the prosecuting attorney's office, and bumping up the annual salary of first assistant prosecuting attorney Angel Woodruff from $67,529 to $116,858 during the time she serves interim head prosecutor in place of Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, who submitted his resignation to become a federal prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office. Swingle's last day is today. It is up to Gov. Jay Nixon to appoint Swingle's replacement.

The commission will not meet Monday with members planning to attend a meeting of the Missouri Association of Counties.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1 Barton Square, Jackson, MO

44 N. Lorimier St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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