LACONIA – Several unions are being asked to approve a switch to a less expensive health care plan. In order to pay for health insurance, Belknap County commissioners got approval from the Executive Committee to move about $83,000 between lines in the county budget. As much as $35,000 in contingency funds may be used to ensure none of the budget lines is overexpended.
Commission Chairman David DeVoy said the transfer request was virtually inevitable given that the convention had earlier this year had flatlined the county's health insurance line at the same level as last year.
At Wednesday's meeting of the commissioners, DeVoy said health insurance costs continue to be a major concern for next year's budget which commissioners are preparing and must be submitted to the county convention by Dec. 1.
Noting that it appears that the city of Laconia's tax cap will be at or near zero for next year, which will put pressure on state representatives from the city to hold the line on next year's county budget to stay within the tax cap, DeVoy said it is important to obtain approval from three unions representing county employees to approve switching health insurance coverage to a new firm.
Commissioners plan to switch health insurance plans starting Jan. 1, 2016, for county employees from the current provider, Health Trust, to the New Hampshire Interlocal Trust, which partners with the nonprofit Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare to provide group health insurance plans for local governments.
Under terms of the current contracts with three State Employee Association-affiliated unions at the Belknap County Home, Corrections Department and Sheriff's Department, the county has the right to substitute a comparable health care plan for an existing plan provided the unions agree that the new plan is comparable.
A 60-day notice to the unions of the proposed change of insurers is required, and on Wednesday Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett said she has notified the unions and that a deadline of Nov. 14 has been set for their response.
In September, Albert Jones, president of the Interlocal Trust, presented numbers which he said would produce $156,000 in annual savings on county health insurance costs.
Shackett presented her own cost comparison between the plans, which showed a $136,919.92 annual savings.
Her figures showed the monthly savings for the 42 one-person HMO plans currently provided by the county to be $2,005.08 per month. Savings on the 29 two-person plans currently provided would amount to $2,738.76 per month and monthly savings on 43 family plans provided would be $5,551.73.
Smaller savings would be realized through the site-of-service plan, which has only 10 people enrolled, two in one-person plans, four in two-person plans and four in family plans. The total savings amount to a little over $1,100 a month.
The county in September received a $250,000 refund from the Health Trust and waited to receive that refund before considering switching insurers, as it would not have been eligible for the refund had it switched earlier.
In August, the Belknap County Convention approved a collective bargaining agreement between Teamsters Local 633 and the county by a 10-5 vote.
The vote provides a 1.4 percent pay raise as well as step increases for the 23 mid-level managers represented by the union, which are based on individual performance reviews, and would increase total compensation by 4.4 percent by those who qualify.
In return, the union members agreed to switch to a less expensive site of service health care plan which will lower health care costs for the county.
A cost summary of the contract shows health insurance costs for the covered employees dropping from $336,433 this year to $322,543, a $13,890 decline, and from $356,881 next year to $300,400, a $56,481 decline.
Commissioners have sought to get the other three county unions to agree to switch to a site of service plan and are currently negotiating with them.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 611