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County closer to insurance benefit savings

--- Latest union contracts include new proposal

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Dec. 18, 2007, 10:26 a.m.)

Walworth County may be able to spare itself from adding another $1 million to a $17.6 million health insurance budget next year.

If all seven union contracts are ratified with a new health insurance proposal, the county won't have to add the extra $1 million it would have if the plans hadn't changed, Administrator David Bretl said.

The 2008 budget passed with the assumption that changes to the insurance benefit would be made.

Two unions, the sheriff's deputies and the health and human services professionals union, accepted the offer, which has several key changes to health insurance benefits. The county board approved those union contracts, both of which last two years, Tuesday night.

The insurance proposal drops a four-tiered plan where employees had options on what coverage they wanted. The lowest coverage had come at no cost to the employee, and progressively better plans had employees paying premiums of 3, 5 and 10 percent.

The latest proposal only offers one plan that includes the same network of health-care providers but with higher co-pays, deductibles and a "buy down" option, said Suzi Hagstrom, labor and employee relations director.

Employees will pay 10 percent of the deductible in 2008, but can reduce that to 5 percent if they take a health risk assessment and take steps to lead a healthier lifestyle as recommended after the assessment.

In 2009, they will pay 12 percent or reduce it to 7 percent by taking the assessment and following recommendations.

The single option offers greater discounts to the county. That, and having employees pay for more of the insurance, would meet the $1 million obligation that would be needed if changes weren't made, Hagstrom said.

The county is still negotiating with five other unions.

"We would love to finish them up ASAP, but we're not there yet," Hagstrom said. She could not comment on specifics of any of the union negotiations.

Both unions reaching agreements accepted an annual pay raise of 2.5 percent. The 2.5 percent raise and the new insurance plan will also be offered to non-union employees, the board approved Tuesday.

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