Health care change set for January

County workers will begin paying 7% of insurance premiums

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday formally approved a plan that has been in the works for more than a year: Starting in January, most county employees will pay a portion of their health insurance premium.

Employees — 1,362 people who have full-time equivalent positions — will pay 7 percent, which will save the county $1.6 million, commissioners said Tuesday.

The county’s remaining 215 employees are members of either the Clark County Sheriff’s Deputies Guild or Custody Officer’s Guild, which are still negotiating with the county’s human resources department.

Members of the custody officer’s guild, however, have been paying a portion of their health insurance premium since January, said Francine Reis, the county’s human resources director.

County employees have known since 2010 they would have to start paying a health care premium in 2012.

For 2012, county employees will pay between $488 and $1,410 annually, depending how many family members are on their plan. Including dental coverage, employees will pay between $533 and $1,538.

This year, service costs went up for employees. For example, an office visit co-pay went from $15 to $20.

During public hearings on the budget in December 2010, commissioners heard from plenty of residents who said the county’s benefit packages are too generous and that employees needed to start paying a portion of their premium.

Earlier in the year, Clark County Administrator Bill Barron said increasing county employees’ share of health care costs will be a key feature of balancing expenditures with a flat revenue forecast.

The county’s general fund budget, projected at $280 million for the next two years, has been cut by $62 million since the 2007-08 budget.

Pay, hours reduced

Expenses were further decreased by reducing hours and pay for about 200 employees after 270 positions were cut.

Other employees, starting with managers, have gone two years without general wage increases. During the freezes on general wage increases, employees did not receive cost-of-living or merit increases. However, approximately 130 employees did receive step increases as part of their pay plan.

Step increases translate to a raise of 4 to 5 percent, Reis said.

While employees will start paying 7 percent of their health care premium, that’s still far below the average, according to a Sept. 27 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study reported that, on average, U.S. workers pay 28 percent of their premiums.

Stephanie Rice: http://www.facebook.com/reporterrice;">www.facebook.com/reporterrice;">http://www.facebook.com/reporterrice;http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov;stephanie.rice@columbian.com.