By BRIAN GRAVES
Bradley County government employees will now potentially be asked to do something which they have not done before — pay a little more for insurance if they want to choose a package with a wider …
Bradley County government employees will now potentially be asked to do something which they have not done before — pay a little more for insurance if they want to choose a package with a wider network of hospitals in their package of coverage.
The Bradley County Commission heard a review Monday of the recommendation to maintain its current provider, Cigna, as well as the three options that will be available to employees.
Pam Nelson of Ocoee Insurance Services, who is serving as the insurance broker for the county, said in researching other companies, Cigna maintained the best coverage for the employees for the cost.
However, Cigna has eliminated Memorial and SkyRidge hospitals from its premium coverage.
“Option 1 is what the majority of employees now have,” Nelson said. "It has your richer benefits."
The new plan will maintain coverage of the two eliminated hospitals in that option, but it would require an added $30.93 per month be paid either by the employee or the county.
That is where there is likely to be some debate among the commissioners as to whether pay the added costs estimated to be more than $250,000 or require employees to pay the added charge divided by pay periods.
Option 2 maintains the exact same benefits as Option 1, but does not include the two hospitals as it has a more narrow network of providers. It would not require any extra cost be paid by either the employee nor the county.
It excludes Memorial, SkyRidge, and Tennova in Knoxville, but still includes coverage for the University of
Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville, Vanderbilt in Nashville and children's hospitals in
Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.
Option 3 continues as a Health Savings Account plan which also requires no extra costs.
The Option 1 package is priced as a 10.99 percent increase above last year’s package. Option 2 is up 5.19 percent and Option 3 is up 16.28 percent.
Commissioner Thomas Crye, who noted he does not participate in the county's insurance program, argued those numbers are deceiving as the deductibles have increased more, noting the single deductible has increased from $650 to $850 —a 30 percent increase.
"We are now wanting to charge the employees we underpay now $31 a month ... I just don't buy that," Crye said.
Nelson told the commissioners one of the reasons for the cost hike has been because of the high usage over the past year.
She also said the county’s insurance has paid out almost $4 million in claims, which is close to equal of the total premiums paid.
Commissioner Bill Winters said the plan "gives options for everybody."
"I'll support it. If people want to pay 30 bucks, they can get that one," Winters said.
Commissioner Mike Hughes said it may "sound like the employees are lazy and fat."
"There were only a few claims, around 25, that were very large claims," he said.
The county has 622 employees.
"We had to tweak this to get to a more affordable cost," said County Mayor D. Gary Davis. "This is a three-plan offer to the employees. Two of them are free."
"The only difference is the network in the second option is smaller," he emphasized. "If you are one of those who want to make sure you, for instance, want to go to Memorial, you have two choices. You can pay more for an out-of-network hospital or you can pay $15 per paycheck to go to that one hospital rather than making the other employees pay also. You make that decision."
"The county is spending more than $4 million to give you two options that are totally free," he said. "
The commission is scheduled to vote on the package next Monday at its regular voting session scheduled for noon at the Bradley County Board of Education board room.
"The only difference is the network in the second option is smaller. If you are one of those who want to make sure you, for instance, want to go to Memorial, you have two choices. You can pay more for an out-of-network hospital or you can pay $15 per paycheck to go to that one hospital rather than making the other employees pay also. You make that decision." — Mayor D. Gary Davis
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