Council studies cost-saving plan for health care Workers offered choice of benefits

November 10, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Council got its first look yesterday at proposed changes in employee health benefits that should save taxpayers $4 million a year, according to a county budget analyst.

Thomas W. Mullinex said that under the revamped health coverage, the traditional and more expensive Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, in which employees could choose any doctor, will be eliminated.

In its place, employees may select among three options: an HMO or one of two doctor networks.

Employees will be able to choose among three health maintenance organizations.

The choice of two doctor networks is between a preferred-provider network, which pays 90 percent of most medical expenses; and a point-of-service plan, which has lower set doctor fees for services and pays 100 percent of most employee expenses. Because it uses lower set fees, the point-of-service plan would likely include fewer doctors.

Both networks will be managed by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which had the best bid of the 22 that were submitted.

An employee enrolled in one of the doctor networks could still choose to see a physician outside of the network, but would pay 30 percent of the cost.

The county will pay 90 percent of the health insurance premiums for the two doctor networks, and 100 percent of the HMO premiums beginning July 1.

"We're trying to move as quickly as we can toward managed care," County Executive Robert R. Neall told the council.

Health insurance will cost the county $22 million this year, and could cost $29 million in three years if no changes are made.

Last week, Mr. Neall offered non-union employees -- primarily the county's managers and administrators -- a 2 percent wage increase Dec. 30 and a 4 percent increase in July, along with the new health coverage.

Mr. Neall gave essentially the same offer to a coalition of the seven labor unions representing county employees, who will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept it.

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