Premiums will lower paychecks at county

Workers contribute to health insurance beginning next year

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Starting in 2012, Clark County employees will pay, for the first time, a portion of their health insurance premium.

Employees will pay 7 percent, which will save the county $1.6 million next year, said Jim Dickman, the county’s budget director.

Dickman said the people who hold 1,362 full-time equivalent positions will pay 7 percent. 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.

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

This year, service costs went up for employees. For example, an office visit co-pay went from $15 to $20 and a generic prescription went from $10 to $15.

Clark County Administrator Bill Barron wrote in a 2010 memorandum to county commissioners that increasing county employees’ share of health care costs will be a “key feature” of balancing expenditures with a flat revenue forecast.

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

Expenses were further decreased by reducing hours and pay for about 200 employees after 270 positions were cut. Other employees, starting with managers, have had two-year wage freezes.

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.

Kaiser’s survey of small and large employers showed that workers pay, on average, $4,129 and employers pay $10,944 toward annual premiums.

Clark County employees, by contrast, will pay $488 a year for employee-only coverage. An employee-plus-one-person plan will be $958; employee-plus-two-or-more plans will be $1,410.

Including dental coverage, employees will pay between $533 and $1,538 a year in premiums, depending how many family members are on their plan.

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