In my 12-years covering it, the Winnebago County Board had never been asked to approve a health insurance carrier contract. And last night's meeting (along with the two or three other times the issue was address that preceded it) showed why.
Thanks to Act 10, the county no longer has to negotiate with all of its employee unions on changing health insurance plans. That allowed County Executive Mark Harris and the folks in Human Resources to consolidate a myriad of plans and options into a single carrier--and to put that package out for competitive bids. That led to a recommendation to go with Network Health Plan--which will offer employees options common in the private sector: a low-deductible plan featuring higher premiums and co-pays and a high deductible health savings account plan with much lower premiums. Most importantly, the change will save the county (and us taxpayers) more than $1.2 Million next year.
That's big, as the County will be seeing a decrease in its tax levy next year due to declining property values plus, there will be less money coming from the State. And what's more, in 2014, the plan previously in place would fall under the "Cadillac Plan Penalty--er, I mean Tax" included in President Obama's Affordable Care Act--meaning it would have cost the County ANOTHER mllion dollars--on top of the annual rate increase. So making a change would seem to make good economic sense.
But a number of Supervisors didn't want to hear that math last night. The only thing they cared about was the handful of employees that will have to change their doctors under the new plan, because Aurora doesn't want to do business with Network. What followed was a perfect example of why the County Executive alone was the one who signed off on those contracts in the past. There were proposals to add options to the plan, demands to go back out for bid for other plans, or returning to the previous plan (despite the multi-million dollar extra expense)--all of which would leave the very employees they claim to care most about without ANY health insurance coverage after September 30th--because as anyone who does HR in the private sector will tell you, carriers don't just have a menu of prices and options that you can choose from on a whim like the drive-thru at McDonalds.
In the end, logic and math won out and the Network Plan contract was approved--albeit with an added-on Point of Service option that employees will find nearly impossible to afford (at which point, keeping the same doctor won't seem so important). And fortunately, we won't have to watch the Winnebago County Board try to negotiate health insurance coverage ever again.