Ocean City Today

County changes employee health benefits for next year

By Brian Gilliland | Mar 29, 2018
Stacey Norton

(March 30, 2018) Anticipating an approximate 7.1 percent increase to the county’s health premium if no action was taken, the Worcester County Commissioners altered health care coverage for employees in the coming year.

Currently, the county’s annual premium is about $35.4 million. If the county made no change, that amount would increase by about $2.5 million to almost $38 million. With the adjustments approved last week, the increase was held to about 5.18 percent, for a total premium of about $37.2 million.

Commissioner Merrill Lockfaw was concerned about the effects on employees with young children, as the changes would tend to cost them more. He also said employee salaries are a concern, and was troubled by the notion that any increase the county could afford in the way of salary would be eaten by the health care increase.

County Human Resources Director Stacey Norton replied that 583 employees are enrolled in family plans, with 48 in employee and children plans.

Norton outlined three options for the commissioners based upon negotiations between Worcester County’s provider, CareFirst, and PSA financials, the consultant the county employees.

The first included no change from the current offerings. The second added a $200 hospital copayment, instituted a 60-visit limit on therapy, added a $20 X-ray copayment, raised the specialist copayment to $30 from $20, added a narrow network pharmacy, added voluntary maintenance choice and generic step therapy.

In response to a question from Commissioner Chip Bertino, Norton said the X-ray copayment is for the visit, so if multiple X-rays are taken, there is only one charge.

The narrow network pharmacy excludes Walgreens from the approved vendors affects 579 of 6,211 prescription drug fills by members and saves the county more than $110,000.

Norton said she couldn’t speculate whether any other vendors might become ineligible during future negotiations.

Generic step therapy requires the use of a generic drug before the name brand can be covered and affects 174 county employees and saves about $162,000.

Norton said the generic must be used first, as long as the active ingredient in the medicine was the same as the name brand.

Voluntary maintenance choice has no impact on any current employees and saves almost $19,000.

The total cost increase for this option is 5.02 percent, or about $1.78 million.

The third option, and the one adopted by the commissioners, included everything except the $200 hospital copayment. The cost difference between the second and third options is about $56,600.

County dental insurance increased five percent, and is completely paid by the members. Vision, life and disability coverage had no increases, because each was still under the terms of a contract agreement.

The changes are effective July 1, 2018.

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