By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
The Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners decided at its Oct. 26, regular meeting, that it would be prudent to at least discuss the state of employee health benefits.The issue arose after the State of Michigan passed Senate Bill 7, which requires government employees to pay at least 20 percent of their health care costs.
“I have had … (county’s insurance agent) investigating for several months an alternate to the current health plan that we have that would be of the least impact to the employees but would save the county quite a bit of money,” said Charlevoix County Clerk Cherie Browe. “I have done some research (and) there are several are several counties that have gone with it.”Browe added, “It has saved a lot of money, but there is a minimum change in their benefits to the employees.”The board discussed having the agent present at a future board meeting to present the options she has found.Joel Evans, County Commissioner
“We’re trying to do the very best thing for the county – not forgetting our employees,” said Charlevoix County Board Chairman Joel Evans (R-District 4).
While health care costs tend to increase from year to year, Browe said she had planned for a 15 percent increase in premiums but the county has actually seen a 3.1 percent decrease.
Commissioner Ron Reinhardt said saving the taxpayers money makes this a priority.
“If it would save a considerable amount of money then I would not be looking for going to 20 percent,” he said.
Commissioner Richard Gillespie added, “Well, we need to balance the books.”
Gillespie said the board should also get input from the employees.
“There seems to be that magic time in our life when everything goes to pot so I guess I’m thinking about at what time do we want to start cutting back,” said Commissioner Shirlene Tripp (R-District 1). “I’ll tell you what, if we get the wrong road that we go down you never get out from under and some people have lost their homes over it.”
She added, “I guess I’d like to take this very seriously.”
Tripp asked whether the county employees would have a say in potential changes to their health plan.
Browe said that is up to the county board.
The insurance agent will be on hand to answer questions at the county’s regular 9:30 a.m. Wednesday Nov. 9, meeting at the county building.