Commissioners overhaul employee insurance

By Billy Corriher

With Clayton County running a large deficit in its employee insurance program, the board of commissioners on Tuesday decided to raise premiums and shuffle some of its insurance plans.

Employees' premium for the PPO program will go up by 35 percent, and the HMO premiums will go up by 12 percent.

The deficit in the insurance fund for the last fiscal year was more than $1.6 million, much of which was covered with a surplus in the worker's compensation insurance fund.

Katherine Dodson, the county's risk manager, said this fiscal year's deficit could still reach $800,000 with the rising costs of health care.

"This problem isn't unique to Clayton County," she said. "I think (the rising cost of health care) is one of the biggest issues in America today."

One problem with the county's plans emerged because the county offers an option of one of two plans for medical insurance, the self-funded PPO plan and an HMO plan, Dodson said. Most older employees chose the PPO plan, while the younger, healthier, employees tended to enroll in the HMO plan. This meant more claims were coming in for the PPO plan.

This led to a "skewing of the risk pool," she said.

The commissioners also decided, at Dodson's request, to solicit bids for a provider that offers both a PPO and HMO plan, so it could spread the risk over both plans.

"If there's a provider that can give us what we need for a reasonable cost, we've got to try it," she said. "I'm hoping for a miracle."

Commissioner Charley Griswell asked Dodson for projections of what kind of increases employees could expect in the next few years. Dodson did not have the numbers on hand, but was not optimistic.

"You're looking at a great deal of money," she said.

The county pays about 80 percent of an employee's health care costs, but Dodson said that isn't enough for some.

"The thing that makes it really tough is we've got employees making minimum wage," she said. "How can they afford health care?"

The county is also switching its provider for life insurance. When its last provider came to the county with a 40 percent increase in their premium, the commissioners decided to switch to Greater Georgia Life, which would only increase premiums by three percent.

The commissioners also approved a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission for senior citizens programs and approved funds for police department equipment.

The commissioners delayed action on the planned Hilton hotel and convention center in Morrow until its March 2 meeting.