During a special called meeting Friday afternoon an increase in county employee insurance premium costs was unanimously approved by the county commissioners.

The increase was prompted by the rising cost of health care coverage from the county’s insurance provider.

The increase passed despite pleas from several county employees objecting to the increase in health care coverage, primarily the requirement that county employees will now be required to pay a $30 monthly premium for coverage. Previously, the employee’s entire health care premium was covered by the county as part of the employee benefit package. (County employees do contribute to the premiums for dependent coverage).

“An increase along with increases in the cost of living is an income decrease,” said Ellis County District Attorney Office employee, D’Andrea Royse.

“Insurance premiums are very important to me. I appreciate the coverage we have here. But when it comes to cost, we are at your mercy. Keep the insurance cost as it is,” said county employee Conrad Dalquist.

Ellis County Human Resources Director Anne Price told the commissioners the county’s carrier has increased the premium per employee by 8½ percent. This means a base cost per employee increased from $559 per month to $606 per month.

With the county facing an increase of nearly $400,000 in annual health care insurance premiums, for the first time the county turned to the employees to share in the cost increase. Of the 8-1/2 percent increase, the county will pay more than $200,000 of the increase, with employees picking up approximately $176,000.

“The premium increase was due to the amount of claims we had during the previous year,” Price said  

Addressing both the employees’ and commissioners’ concerns on the costs to the employees, Price told the commissioners there was another option.

“The other option would be to raise the deductibles and co-pays, which would lower the premium,” Price said.

Price said county employees currently have a plan that calls for a $600 deductable for in-plan coverage and $1,000 deductable for out-of-plan coverage. She said examples for the county to receive a cheaper premium plan would increase the deductable to $1,000 for in-plan coverage and $3,000 for out-of-plan coverage.

“Additionally, if we change plans, we loose our grandfather clause that we have until 2015,” Price said, objecting to the change in coverage. “One of the factors to consider if we loose our grandfather status is we will have to accept employees with preexisting conditions into our plan.”

“What value would it be to change if we have to pick up the preexisting conditions?” Precinct 4 Commissioner Ron Brown asked.

 “I would prefer to keep things as they are. I’m not sure we can quantify picking up the employees with preexisting conditions,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry said.

“We have a outstanding program. I have some employees dropping their dependent’s coverage from their spouse’s programs to add them to ours,” Price added.

“The best long-term way we can reduce our claims experience percentage is to encourage more employees to add their dependents,” County Auditor Mike Navarro said.

The $30 monthly cost to the employee is the only change as the dependent cost will remain the same.

Other actions considered and unanimously approved by the commissioners during Friday’s special meeting were:

• A requested action item to declare furniture and related items at 114 S. Rogers 109 W. Franklin, 111 W. Franklin, 113 W. Franklin, 117 W. Franklin and 200 S. Rogers as surplus and or salvage for disposal via donation to a local civic or charitable organization.     

• Consideration and action to declare computers, metal items, monitors, phones, and related items located at 114 S. Rogers, 109 W. Franklin, 111 W. Franklin, 113 W. Franklin, 115 W. Franklin, 117 W. Franklin and 200 S. Rogers as waste for disposal.