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Washington County employee health benefits to cost slightly more

April 30, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

With health care costs on the rise, Washington County employees will be paying about 10 percent more on average for their share, starting July 1, county officials said Tuesday.

The county Board of Commissioners unanimously approved proposed health benefit changes for fiscal year 2013-14, which will result in a typical increase of $12.53 per month, or a little more than $6 per paycheck, according to Stephanie Stone, the county’s Director of Health and Human Services.

“I don’t think we have much choice but to raise it,” Commissioner William B. McKinley said. “The new cost requires an elevation in health care and the last year there was no increase.”

Stone said costs are offset by moving the county’s dental coverage to a self-funded plan, adding a $5 increase to the co-pay when visiting a specialist and requiring preauthorization for all hospitalizations.

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A slight increase will be applied to county retirees, who pay half of the total premium that current employees pay, Stone said.

County Administrator Gregory B. Murray told the commissioners that costs went up in the current fiscal year, but the county chose not to levy additional costs against employees.

Also part of the discussion, Stone went over details of the county’s proposed 2013-14 Wellness Initiative, which includes opportunities for employees to participate in at least one physical and one educational activity per month, starting January 2014 and running through June 2014.

To participate, employees will earn points for completing at least three of the listed activities during the six-month period, Stone said. Once the activity is completed, proof must be submitted to the Wellness Committee through the county’s Human Resources Department.

Each employee’s name will be placed into a pool, and on Tuesday, July 1, 2014, one person will be selected to receive a $500 prize, Stone said.

Physical activities include yoga, tai chi, the St. Patrick’s Day run/walk event in Hagerstown and several others, according to tentative plans submitted to the commissioners. Educational activities include stress management, relationship counseling, addiction counseling, financial planning and a diabetic class.

No costs are associated with starting the wellness plan, which Murray said may help mitigate some health care costs in the future by promoting a healthier way of life for the county’s workforce.

“The reason we’re doing it — although it’s for the health and safety of the employee — is because it keeps out cost lower,” Murray told the commissioners.

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