Healthcare plan for county still undecided - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Healthcare plan for county still undecided

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

November 10, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - After months of negotiations for a health care provider for Dougherty County Employees, an exclusive agreement with Phoebe is apparently off the table. County commissioners are basically back where they started, possibly offering the same health care options that already exist. If the commission goes that route, some county employees will pay higher premiums and taxpayers will likely pay more, too.

After strong reaction from some commissioners and Palmyra Medical Center executives, county commissioners were presented a healthcare plan this morning that did away with an exclusive contract with Phoebe.

Insurance Consultant Kirk Rouse said, "The commission expressed a concern for exclusivity and that's why it came off the table."

Palmyra filed a lawsuit against Phoebe back in July, claiming Phoebe is a monopoly, but the commissions move Monday didn't make CEO Bud Wethington happy. "I'm not happy at all with the outcome of today's meeting. Yes, they did take exclusivity off the table, but at the end of the day, there's still no choice."

Phoebe is still the in-network option for employees. Palmyra is out-of-network, which means most employees likely won't go to Palmyra.

"If we were in-network, that would change, but as long as we're out of network, the county employees are going to be questioning where they should go for healthcare."

If the county had gone with the exclusive contract with Phoebe, it's estimated it would have saved $600,000 a year in taxpayer money, but would have taken away the choice for employees.

"The choice of different care and the choice of a venue in healthcare, comes at a cost," said Chairman Jeff Sinyard.  He says he's not sold on the one option presented to commissioners and believes there must be a better way to save money for both employees and taxpayers.

Sinyard said, "I think as an employee, you want the best healthcare with the least amount of money out of pocket. At the same time, as an elected official, we want to provide the best healthcare to employees with the best amount of money out of the taxpayers war chest."

The commission is expected to vote on the healthcare plan later this month, but may once again put off the decision to discuss other options. If the county adopts the same plan, employees who chose the low deductible plan will see a 10% premium increase as of March 1st.

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