Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Stark Countians should be appreciative of the infusion of transparency that Commissioners Janet Creighton and Thomas Bernabei have brought to Stark County government.

It came out at yesterday's work session (Bernabei and Creighton added two work sessions per week as a forum in which the commissioners continually examine the operations of county government) that Stark County is paying (by the SCPR's calculations) about $841,000.00 more than other governments across America for employee health care.


What to do about taking the cream out of this cream-rich plan?

An impractical solution was offered by Janckson Township Trustee James N. Walters when he ran for county commissioner this past November.  He was pushing to re-negotiate the rates that the bargaining unit part of the county employee group pays (in terms of their contribution).

Well, as anyone who has done any collective bargaining knows, for the rate of what bargaining unit employees pay takes agreement to re-open negotiation on the part of the union.  Somehow the SCPR thinks that there might just be a tad of reluctance on the part of unions representing county employees to re-open.

What appears to be a more practical approach is for the commissioners to consider changing the plan.

It appears that a plan that really has the oomph to help trim county costs for healthcare, perhaps beyond the $841,000 extra cost because the county has a "rich plan," would be to go to a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) which is a tax-advantaged plan.  HDHP allows participants to make pre-federal tax deposits in a savings account only to be withdrawn (without tax penalty) for uncovered medical expenses.

Stark County Benefits Coordinator Carol Hayn tells the SCPR that if Stark was to go to a $1,500 per annum deductible, the cost savings would be substantial.

Hayn says that she has individual ongoing discussions with commissioners on what plan is best for Stark and that in August, September or thereabouts, she will form a proposal for the upcoming new year as to what change, if any, she recommends for the new year.

Hayn can be seen on the video at the end of this blog saying that perhaps it is time for Stark to consider going to a HDHP.  A major reason that HDHP's are effective to lower health care costs is that employees think twice or more before accessing health care because of their substantial out-of-pocket.

It could be that Stark County will be losing substantial revenue in 2012 because of the expiration of a 0.25 sales tax levy passed by voters in 2003.

It appears to The Report that reworking the county's health care plan could be an effective and substantial way to help help balance the county's 2012 budget.

Here is the Carol Hayn video.

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