By 1812Blockhouse

The Richland County Board of Commissioners convened on Tuesday morning to discuss a pressing issue that affects both the county’s budget and its employees: a significant increase in health insurance premiums for the year 2024.

Rachel Troyer, the county’s Central Services and Health Insurance expert, broke the news that staying with the current medical and prescription plan would result in a 13% increase in insurance coverage. The news comes as a blow to the county, which is already grappling with budget constraints.

The Financial Impact: Half a Million Dollars or More

Commissioner Cliff Mears, who chaired the meeting, expressed concern about the financial implications of the increase. Preliminary calculations suggest that the hike could cost the county’s general fund between $500,000 to $600,000. The numbers are not set in stone, as they depend on enrollment figures, but the impact is undeniable. “This is a very large increase. When I ran it, it was like between $550,000 and $600,000,” Troyer confirmed.

Employee Contributions and Union Contracts

The increase also has implications for the county’s employees. According to set guidelines, most union employees will see a $5 increase in their monthly contributions, except for those in Job and Family Services, who will experience an $8 increase. Non-union employees will also see a similar hike. Other boards and elected officials have the discretion to set rates for their employees, adding another layer of complexity to the situation.

The Underlying Causes

When asked about the factors driving the increase, several issues were highlighted. An aging population requiring more medical care, inflation, and particularly the skyrocketing cost of pharmaceuticals were cited as major contributors. “Pharmaceutical companies are just raking us over the coals,” Troyer lamented. The county has had a good track record with generics, but the cost of brand-name drugs, some of which have not yet hit the generic market, is a significant concern.

Open Enrollment and Future Plans

With open enrollment approaching, the board emphasized the need to disseminate this information to employees as soon as possible. “Let’s get these out if we can to our employees as soon as possible because they may be making decisions based on budgeting varying health plans,” said one of the commissioners. The board also plans to explore different plan options for 2025 to mitigate the impact of such increases.

The meeting concluded with a unanimous, albeit “grudging,” motion to approve the plans for 2024. The board remains committed to finding solutions that are both fiscally responsible and fair to its employees. But for now, the 13% increase looms large, serving as a stark reminder of the challenges that lie ahead.

For more information on the Richland County Board of Commissioners and their upcoming meetings, you can visit their official website.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

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