Commissioners voted Thursday to renew the county health insurance plan with an average rate increase of 15.6 percent to be absorbed by employees.
Human Resources Manager Norma Santoyo said the recommended action “will keep the plan decent.”
Commission Chairman Greg Lynn opened discussion by saying, “This is not an opportunity to engage in polemics about Obama care.”
Santoyo said the proposals all exceeded Affordable Care Act requirements.
“They’re good coverage plans,” she said. “Employees are picking up most of the increase.”
Santoyo said she sought bids from five insurance carriers and only three responded: St. Mary’s, Anthem and United Healthcare.
Based on their responses, Santoyo said the county elected to negotiate with current carrier St. Mary’s.
“I find it really alarming the field has narrowed from dozens (of carriers) to only five,” Lynn said.
Lynn said it would be informative to find out how neighboring jurisdictions are wrestling with the increases.
“It’s at the top of our radar in the new year to stop ‘the bleeding’ and try to reduce costs for our employees and our county,” said County Manager Steve Mokrohisky.
Commissioner Lee Bonner said he had been following developments in California where communities seemed to be lowering insurance premiums.
“If we watered our plans down to the bare bones, we could probably get the rates down,” Santoyo said.
But she emphasized that offering good coverage was critical to retaining and hiring good county employees.
Commissioners endorsed a proposal to make a one-time additional contribution of $72,000 to the health savings accounts of county employees enrolled in the 2014 HSA Core Plan, one of six offered by the county.
Employees of districts and towns would need to seek similar relief from their own government bodies.
“Given what we’ve asked of our employees over the past few years, I think this is the least we can do to say ‘thank you,’” Lynn said.
Commissioner Doug Johnson reminded the board of the days when the county picked up the majority of all health costs.
“Now the employees are picking up more than half,” he said.
The board agreed to retain three core plans and three enhanced plans at an average rate increase of 15.6 percent.
The plan affects 1,031 employees and their dependents.
It covers the county, the East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts, and the towns of Minden, Gardnerville and Genoa.
The plan is estimated to cost $4.2 million during 2014, with employees paying most of the increase.
The East Fork Fire District will carry the largest financial impact with a total increase of $59,784 for all its employees for the year. The county impact will be $9,433.92.
■ In other action, the board approved entering into an interlocal agreement with Carson City to provide community health services to Douglas County residents.
The county is expected to save more than $41,000 annually through the collaboration.
The scope of environmental health services includes inspections of restaurants, public pools and spas, public and private schools, hotels, motels and RV parks, and temporary events with food services.