Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Dan Reed
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

County saves big on health insurance

 


A total of $340,000 a year will be saved from Carlton County employee health insurance premiums in action taken by the Carlton County commissioners at their October 11 meeting. HealthPartners was chosen tentatively, subject to union approval, as the health insurance provider. Insurance coverage in the past has been provided by Blue Cross with Carlton County the largest member in a cooperative pool of local governmental entities.

Chris Wills and Justin Safransil of Flexible Benefit Consulting presented the proposal to the county board, noting the proposal from HealthPartners included a $340,000 savings from the current insurance plan, a 6 percent cap for the second year and a 6 percent cap for the third year. Flexible Benefit Consulting represents about 400 clients in the region and negotiates rates with health insurance providers. They are paid .75 percent of the premium paid to the insurance provider for compensation of services.

Coverage is unchanged. Carlton County, with its 400-plus employees, will in fact be self-insured. If a provider such as a chiropractor, vision center, or mental health treatment does not accept HealthPartners coverage, the insurance company will reach out to them to begin accepting their insurance coverage. No referrals are needed for specialists, such as those at the Mayo Clinic. Non-planned care is covered if an insured member is out of state.

“Is this their final offer?” asked commissioner Gary Peterson.

Wills replied, “I think this is the best that we could do at this time. It came above our expectations in savings. HealthPartners provides insurance coverage for Essentia of Duluth, Chisago County and the Cloquet schools currently.”

January 1, 2017, is the switchover and the proposal was unanimously approved by the county board.

County coordinator Dennis Genereau asked for permission to call for bids from consulting firms to do assessments of all county-owned buildings. He acknowledged committee work has been going on within county government, but felt an outside source would give a neutral overview of the shape of current work space and needed updates to that space and equipment being used at each site.

Commissioner Dick Brenner interjected, “We don’t need a lot of money spent on this process reinventing the wheel. We have done a lot of committee work among the departments. I don’t want to limit the board’s choices.”

At 9-11 cents per square foot or an overall cost of about $20,000, the study was approved unanimously by the board if a successful bidder was found.

Highway engineer Mike Tardy commented, “I find the needs at the Transportation Building much less of a priority than the space needs at the Barnum garage. The county building there was built in the 1970s when equipment was smaller. There is a definite lack of space during fall preparation for winter snow and ice, for example, and I am concerned employees work outside to mount necessary attachments, which results in unsafe working conditions that can be avoided with a larger garage space.”

A property tax abatement policy was approved with changes. Abatement of taxes may consider financial hardship. Previously, examples of hardship had only included “the physical or mental incapacity of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s immediate family ... which may constitute excusable neglect on the part of the taxpayer.”

Commissioner Sue Zmyslony said, “I was at a township meeting last night and those attending said they would like me to thank highway engineer Mike Tardy and his department for all the road updating that has been done in our county. The ½ percent sales tax road work has shown a lot of promise and needed progress.”

 

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