After considering various alternative options to the county’s current health insurance plan over the course of the last several weeks, the Kaufman County Commissioners Court ordained to keep the current plan for the next fiscal year at the cost of an additional $53,000 to the county.
All of the healthcare benefits Kaufman County employees have come to expect will remain the same for at least the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The employee portion of the insurance plans will continue to be paid fully by the county and the insurance plan will retain its current deductible of $1,000, which is higher than the majority of the counties analyzed by Kaufman County HR Director Mary Westbrook, but is still substantially lower than many private insurance offers.
The question of adjusting the health insurance plan for employees was raised by County Judge Hal Richards last month when he realized the county could save around $200,000 in its budget if the commissioners chose to increase deductibles by $500 for employees.
“The nature of my question was whether it would be beneficial to our employees to select option 1 which would increase their deductibles by $500,” Richards explained in the July 31 meeting of the commissioners court. “That would give the county roughly $200,000 that we could save and apply toward raises for employees.”
The option could have also lowered premium costs for employees with other family members on their plan. Those on the family plan could have saved up to $280 on their premiums over the course of the next year. However, Precinct 1 commissioner Mike Hunt argued that those savings weren’t enough to offset a higher deductible and that employees would likely spend their extra money rather than saving it for medical emergencies.
“I still stick to we just need to pay the $53,000 and keep the plan the way it is,” Hunt said. “I hate to lay mom and dad with grown-ups, but if it’s me I’m not going to save that money for if I get sick because I’m not going to get sick and I’m not going to get hurt. But I can spend it for something else that I need. I just think it’s the best thing for everybody if we leave the deductibles like they are because there’s not that much of a difference in money as far as what they’re saving.”
“A lot of people can’t even come up with $1,000,” Westbrook added.
Both Hunt and Westbrook’s concerns were echoed by precinct 2 commissioner Skeet Phillips who says he has met multiple county residents who have refused to undergo hospital procedures even under the current plan because they can’t afford the deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.
“They just can’t come up with the money,” Phillips said. “Some of them refuse to get work because they don’t have the money.”
He also noted that having a competitive healthcare plan entices potential employees to come to Kaufman County and also helps the county retain its current pool of employees.
“That’s part of what keeps employees here, having a decent insurance that they can actually afford,” Phillips said.