County keeps employee insurance local


The Wayne County Commissioners recessed last week’s meeting to take a closer look at proposals for health care coverage for county employees and decided to stick with their local company on a new plan.
At Tuesday’s resumption of the Aug. 2 meeting, the county board voted 2-1 to stay with a United Health Care plan offered by Elkhorn Valley Insurance of Wayne, choosing that plan over a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan offered by the Nebraska Association of County Officials.
The UHC plan will cost the county about $40,000 more than the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, but lower co-pays and prescription costs, along with local service, were cited by board members Dean Burbach and Jim Rabe as they voted in favor of the UHC plan.
County employees’ health insurance is covered by the county, but Wayne County is one of just three counties in Nebraska that offers such an incentive for its employee base, an offer that may be seeing its final days as part of the county’s benefits package.
“We’ve kind of spoiled everybody because we’ve had excellent insurance, but sooner or later we’re going to have to  make them pay for part of their insurance,” Rabe said.
Burbach was concerned with the steep 16 percent increase in the insurance policy, which replaces the old UHC health plan the county’s employees are under currently. However, he felt it was important for employees to be able to talk with somebody locally about their health insurance questions, and he made the motion to go with the Elkhorn Valley plan.
Board chair Randy Larson, who voted against the UHC plan, said he had received some complaints about the insurance plan that, in his opinion, justified the move to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan offered by NACO.
“I don’t want to make it an agent thing, because it’s not,” he said, noting that the complaints he received were not about the local agent. “We’ve had nothing but the best coverage from Steve (Muir), but I’ve had enough complaints that I’d be willing to make a change.”
Under the UHC plan, employees will pay a $25 co-pay for primary care visits and $5 for a specialist appointment, compared to $30 and $60 under the Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan. Prescription costs would range from $10-$60 under the UHC plan, compared to $10-$80 on the Blue Cross plan. The UHC plan offers full coverage of health care costs after an out-of-pocket total of $1,750 for individuals and $3,500 for families, while Blue Cross’ coverage amounted to 70 percent after an out-of-pocket threshhold of $1,500 and $3,000, with the employee responsible for the remaining 30 percent.
Overall, the county expense for the UHC insurance to cover 43 employees for fiscal year 2016-17 will come to $842,508.92. That compares to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield offer of $802,669.08.
The board spent part of Tuesday’s meeting looking at preliminary numbers for the 2016-17 fiscal year budget. County Clerk Deb Finn told The Wayne Herald that preliminary figures point to a small increase of about $30,000 in the county’s tax asking, which translates to an increase of less than two-tenths of a cent in the levy. According to her numbers, the $0.00159 increase per $100 of valuation would translate to an increase of $1.59 on property valued at $100,000. The board is expected to continue work on the budget at its next meeting before giving final approval in September.
In other action, the board approved the purchase of two tractors to replace machinery in District 3. The board approved the purchase of a 2001 Case IH MX-240 tractor from Titan Machinery in the amount of $62,395.11, and also approved the purchase of a 1997 John Deere 7810 from Grossenburg Implement at a cost of $54,000.
The county board’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 16 at 9 a.m. at the Wayne County Courthouse.