Major Insurance changes for County Employees - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Major Insurance changes for County Employees

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

June 30, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Dougherty County employees will soon see some major changes in their health insurance plan. For starters, they'll pay 15% more in premiums. Also, spouses who have health insurance available to them, won't be allowed in the county plan. But the biggest change is still to be decided, as a contract with Phoebe Health Partners is still being negotiated. It says employees have to use Phoebe if they want any coverage at all.

It's a problem both the private and public sector must deal with; health care and insurance coverage. "Very few things make everybody happy, but it's a serious situation and it's a nationwide problem, healthcare is, and we're grappling with it just like everyone else is."

And a new contract proposed by Insurance consultant Kirk Rouse to the Dougherty County Commission doesn't make Lamar Hudgins happy either. "Right now," he said, "it would not be something I would be in favor of doing, but we're going to continue to study it and see what our options are."

The option on the table right now is for an exclusivity contract with Phoebe. Employees would only be covered if they used doctors and services who are a part of Phoebe Health Partners. And if not, what happens? "No benefits in Dougherty County," said Rouse.  He says the reason for the all or nothing contract is to get a better discount with Phoebe.

Rouse said, "It's a cost saving factor for the taxpayers of Dougherty County." And if it had been in place last year would have saved Dougherty County approximately $600,000.

Hudgins says he'll have to weigh the cost benefit against the human factor, specifically those employees who use doctors that are out of network. "I'm not in favor of that unless it's just a situation where we have to to keep the plan solvent and keep the costs as low as we can."

 Other major changes in the plan, employees with spouses who have the option of taking insurance coverage at their jobs will no longer be covered. And employees will pay at least a 15% increase in premiums. Only about 10% of the amount paid in claims for the county, were paid to out-of-network providers last year. The bulk of those were paid to Palmyra Hospital.

Commissioners still must vote on the exclusivity contract with Phoebe Health Partners if and when it's finalized. The premium increase will go into effect August 1st and the working spouse provision is effective October 1st.

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