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Medical insurance premiums on the rise

GATESVILLE – In an effort to hold down the costs of health insurance, Gates County local government is requiring its workforce to pay a share.

In their scheduled meeting here last week, the Board of Commissioners, following a lengthy discussion, voted to renew the county’s medical insurance plan that will shift some the financial burden of those premiums to their employees.

This comes at a time where the county faces as much as a 30 percent hike in the annual cost of providing health insurance to its employees. Currently, the county pays a shade over $555,000 annually ($46,251 in monthly premiums) for 72 employees enrolled in the plan. The majority (65) of those enrolled are listed as “employee only” plans.

With a new fiscal year looming on the horizon, the county’s insurer – the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) – was asking for a 31 percent increase for the same plan now offered. That would increase the annual amount to just over $727,000 ($60,599.96 in monthly premiums).

The county opted for the most inexpensive plan offered by the NCLM, a 15 percent hike over the current year ($637,679.52 annually with monthly premiums of $53,139.96).

The county will offer a basic plan and cover that monthly premium ($679.68 per employee enrolled in the plan).

Employees choosing the basic plan will face higher deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs. There is a $5,000 deductible (for individual coverage; or $10,000 for a family) that first be met before the insurance kicks in with paying 70 percent of the costs associated with maternity, inpatient, and outpatient medical services. The employee would be responsible for the remaining 30 percent of those costs. There are also higher copays for doctor visits and for prescriptions.

However, the plan does allow the employees to choose options, to include an 80-20 share, one where the deductible is $2,500 for an individual ($5,000 for a family). After meeting the deductible, the insurance covers 80 percent of the covered medical procedures with the employee paying the remaining 20 percent.

They could also choose a 100 percent coverage plan by the insurance company after the $2,500 or $5,000 deductibles are met.

The two options both come with higher premiums that the employee must pay.

“This is their healthcare plan,” stated Commissioner Jack Owens. “Everybody’s (medical) situation is different. When you let an individual make the decision, the more options you give them it gives them the opportunity to match their healthcare needs with their individual and family’s situation.”

“I agree….it’s their healthcare and they should have options,” added Commissioner Althea Riddick.

Owens made a motion that the county will elect to share the cost of the monthly premium with the employee and the county will pay for the basic plan. If an employee chooses a plan with better options, the amount for the basic plan will be applied to that option.

Commissioner Jonathan Jones offered a second, and the motion passed without objection.

This newly approved plan is for July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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