Lucas County commissioners Tuesday approved removing the spouses of workers from county-funded medical coverage, a move that will impact about 680 employees who have husbands or wives enrolled in the plan.
The changes in the county health-care program will affect all of the county’s 3,200 employees, including workers covered by collective bargaining agreements, nonunionized staff, and elected officials.
Starting March 1, the county will no longer allow spouses of county workers to have primary coverage under the employee health-benefit plan. The dependents of county workers will continue to be insured in the plan and will not be affected.
Carol Contrada, president of the board of commissioners, said the policy changes were made in response to rising health-care costs and mandates under the Affordable Care Act, including protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions and the availability of coverage through the health-care exchange.
“With the advent of the Affordable Care Act, those issues of affordability, insurability, and portability are essentially gone. We know that spouses will be eligible, without concerns of pre-existing conditions, to be able to get health insurance through their employers if they are employed somewhere else. They will be able to buy private insurance, and they will be able to go on the health-care exchange,” Mrs. Contrada said after the meeting. “There are no longer issues of losing insurance or losing their doctors. This was the time to do it. It was a reasonable choice for taxpayers.”
The commissioners said discontinuing spousal coverage is projected to save a minimum of $2.3 million annually and could result in as much as $4 million in annual cost savings.
The unions representing county workers, including the sheriff’s department, clerk of courts, facilities, and Jobs and Family Services, recently ratified agreements for the policy change, which came out of discussions by the county’s health-care cost containment board.
The board, which consists of union and nonunion employees and managers, was formed by the commissioners in 1984 to provide ideas on strategies to help control the increasing costs of providing employee health care.
“For 30 years our employees have been working with management and the administration to address the rising costs of health care,” Mrs. Contrada said. “Each year the [board] looks at ways to be able to restructure the costs of paying for health care and the level of benefits. It really is a cooperative effort.”
Currently, employees contribute part of their pay for spousal coverage on the county plan. The costs for couples with combined annual incomes over $75,000 is $150 a month. Once the spousal coverage is dropped, employees will no longer have the money deducted from their pay.
Workers who do not have spouses on the plan do not have payroll deductions for medical coverage.
The commissioners also approved the 2014 budget that is expected to be nearly $553.9 million, about 2 percent more than the 2013 budget. It includes nearly $124.8 million in general fund appropriations.
Laura Lloyd-Jenkins, county administrator, said the spending plan projects a 2.5 percent increase in revenue for the year and doesn’t budget for salary increases to employees.
“Our goal was fund departments at a level sufficient to maintain current service levels,” Ms. Lloyd-Jenkins said. “There are no layoffs or impacts to services whatsoever.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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