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County insurance benefits are costly

By Katie Zerr –

A controversy has been brewing recently over what Walworth County taxpayers should be asked to pay for insuring county employees and their families.
According to Walworth County Commissioner Duane Martin, the county pays for full coverage for their employees and more than half of that of their families. He said commissioners also get full county health insurance benefits.
Walworth County Commissioners have had several heated discussions about this issue and recently had other options for health insurance coverage presented to them by area agents.
“It was too late to do anything in November, so we will be discussing the issue again this year,” he said.
The discussion involves the difference between the single coverage and the family coverage.
The commissioners agree that the county should pay 100 percent of the county’s employee health insurance premium, according to Martin, but do not agree to paying an additional $1,300 per month for the employees’ spouse and family coverage.
Currently the premium for single coverage is $877 per month while family coverage is $2,194 per month. The premium for family coverage is $1,300 per month more than the single coverage with the county employee paying $500 of the additional $1,300 cost. According to Martin, an employee with family coverage receives an additional $800 per month benefit from the county.
“Health insurance premiums for the county are nearly $50,000 a month,” said Martin. “We also pay $20,000 in benefits to commissioners.”
Commissioners are paid $800 per month salary and  can get a $26,328 annual health insurance benefit that he or she pays just $6,000 for, according to Martin.
“The health insurance benefit is three times the pay,” he said. “The family premium is $2,194 per month, the insured must pay only $500 of that premium. The county pays $1,694 per month.”
Martin said that equals a net health care benefit of $20,328 per year for a county commissioner that is paid a $9,600 annual salary.

Contemplating change
Potter County Auditor Shawna Shaw said their commissioners have already voted to discontinue paying for the family benefits they once offered to county employees.
“Employees paid $50 per spouse and $100 for families, but we can’t afford to do that anymore,” she said. “As of Jan. 1, we are dropping the spouse and family benefits.”
She said the commission voted to pay the county employees another $2 an hour to help them afford insurance for their families.
Shaw said the premiums for insurance cost the county $433,000 a year.
In Brown County, the county pays 100 percent for a single employee health insurance benefit, but only 50 percent of what it costs to insure that employee’s family, according to county assistant Gary Vetter.
He said that seems to be about normal with what is happening in counties around the state.
Martin said that several of the insurance people that spoke with commissioners indicated that it is very unusual for an employee to provide 100 percent paid family coverage for their employees. If the employee wants family coverage they must pay the additional premium.
He said the commissioners will discuss the situation again but will not make any changes until employees are aware of the change and have time to make adjustments.