As County Supervisors await a formal request for a two-percent wage hike for Clarke County Public School employees, which if approved will almost certainly result in a similar increase for County government staff, the Clarke County Joint Administrative Services committee recommended approval of a 5.4% budget increase for County employee health care costs. The recommendation now goes forward to the both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board for further consideration.
While both the County and the employee will share a portion of the benefits cost increase, if approved, the majority of the cost increase will be covered by the County. By covering the majority of the rising cost of health benefits, the County is in effect providing an across the board compensation increase for County employees who participate in the County-sponsored health care plan.
“It’s certainly a compensation increase for County employees” said Joint Administrative Services director Tom Judge. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Leslie Tucker, a health insurance specialist with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, said that the 5.4% increase was approximately half of the 11% increase that her commercial clients are seeing and less than the 21% increase that the County would have experienced had it not opted to join Anthem’s “Local Choice” plan which pools Clarke County’s costs with approximately 31 other jurisdictions.
“When the Local Choice contingency reserve funding pool reaches a certain level the funds are redistributed in order to benefit the members” Tucker said. “In this case, Local Choice has opted to use $415K in contingency reserve funds against future claims to offset current increases in member insurance costs.”
Tucker said that the 31 jurisdictions that participate in Anthem’s Local Choice program include school districts, local governments and various governmental authorities.
Clarke County offers insurance to its full time employees provided that the employee works a minimum of 30 hours per week. CCPS superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said that while many of the division’s school bus drivers opt to use the County insurance program, participation is less among food service staff.
“For many of the bus drivers the pay simply offsets the insurance cost” Murphy said. “They are effectively working just for their insurance coverage.”
During the discussion with Tucker, Clarke County Supervisor chairman Michael Hobert (Berryville) questioned why the plan’s $141K Projected Dental Capitation rate, the amount paid by Local Choice members to use the dental services network, was equal to the $141K amount paid for the plan’s Projected Medical Administrative Charges.
“That doesn’t make sense to me” Hobert said.
JAS director Tom Judge made a similar inquiry about the $605K Projected Drug Capitation charge which is nearly six times that of the Projected Medical Administrative Charges.
“It seems like either the drug fee is too high or the administrative fee is too low” Judge remarked.
Anthem’s Tucker pledged to get back to the JAS committee with a fuller explanation of the charges in question.
The JAS committee, which includes Hobert, Judge, Murphy as well as County Administrator David Ash, County Treasurer Sharon Keeler and School Board Member Chip Schutte (White Post) voted unanimously to forward a recommended approval to both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors.
View Clarke County’s Healthcare Budget and Rates here: