County officials are planning to offer county government and community college workers a health care package that will raise insurance rates for some. But it will also include a discount plan that keeps premiums at current levels for workers willing to choose a designated list of physicians.
The tentative proposal by Blue Cross and Blue Shield is part of the pay and benefits package county officials are offering workers represented by six labor unions.
As part of the plan, the premiums that county employees pay each month for health care, under Blue Cross' traditional family and individual health insurance package, will jump about 14 percent.
The amount paid by an employee covered in the traditional family plan will increase by about $6 a month to about $47. Rates from an individual are expected to increase from about $3 to $16 a month, according to county officials.
But Blue Cross and Blue Shield also will offer theoption of joining a preferred provider network, which offers a discount for use of the physicians designated by the insurer.
Employeeswho choose that option will see no significant increase in premiums.They will be able to use doctors outside the Blue Cross network but will pay more for each visit to such a physician, said Donald Tynes Sr., county director of personnel.
Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman forCounty Executive Robert R. Neall, said the county was able to shave $800,000 from the cost of the health care package by combining the 350 community college employees with the 3,750 government workers who opt for the county health insurance.
She said that the county is expected to sign contracts with Blue Cross and Blue Shield next week, and that employees will be offered enrollment in one of the plans fromMay 1 to June 5.
Tom Mullenix, assistant budget officer, said that the plan will cost the county $15.4 million next year, an increase of $410,000, or 2.7 percent. The county also will continue to offer achoice of five health maintenance organizations, a vision plan and achoice of dental plans, Tynes said.
Hayman said Neall is continuing to look for other ways to save county money by merging other government operations, such as computer and accounting services.
Michael Milanowski, county labor relations director, said that all six labor unions were briefed on the package Monday and that they are expected to accept it as part of the negotiations process.
The Neall administration has scheduled talks for May 30 with the union representingthe county's 24 sheriff's deputies.
But unions representing county police and Local 2563 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents clerical and technical workers, have asked the County Council to hold impasse hearings. The council's decisions are final.
Unions representing firefighters and detention center guards are asking their memberships to vote on contracts in the next few weeks.
AFSCME Local 582, which represents blue-collar workers, has scheduled a meeting with a fact finder Tuesday andWednesday for a review of the negotiations, Milanowski said. A fact-finder's review is a step taken just before going to the County Council, he said.