Richland County Council is taking steps to lessen the burden of rising health costs for County employees with dependents.
Council approved a recommendation from the County Administrator’s Office to absorb additional dependent premiums for employees, effective Oct. 1, 2017. The measure absorbs the out-of-pocket premium cost increases for dependent healthcare coverage for roughly 500 County employees.
“One of the major concerns among County workers is not only current high costs for coverage but drastic annual increases of the employee’s portion of dependent health insurance premiums,” said County Administrator Gerald Seals. “While this is a short-term fix, we are working on a collaborative long-term solution with employees to keep many of our employees from going into the poverty level. “
The increased employee payroll deductions for dependent health insurance were scheduled to begin this month for the October 2017-September 2018 benefit plan year. On average, affected employees were expected to pay $100-$250 more per month for dependent coverage. However, they will now be able to have more take-home pay.
The County determined dollars previously budgeted for health insurance, but not already incurred from the prior fiscal year, will be the funding source to implement the short-term action. Based on the County’s health insurance data, the approximate amount of funding needed is $482,000.
“The larger and second-stage solution is to agree on a policy that will allow us to continue driving down healthcare costs, in terms of preventive care and encouraging employees to stay health, and not just passing along cost increases to employees,” Seals said. “We are very aware of employee concerns about this important issue, and that is why we are taking this action now.”
The County offers two health insurance plans for employees. Currently, Richland County Government pays 100 percent for the employee-only Standard Health Insurance Plan if employees choose to participate in the County’s award-winning wellness incentive program, RichHealth. This year, approximately 500 employees received health benefits at no premium cost because they were compliant with the wellness incentive program.
RichHealth, which is a collaboration with Cigna and Palmetto Health, encourages healthy lifestyle choices and preventive care services. The County has provided a wellness program for its employees for more than 10 years.
The County also staffs a wellness coach who regularly provides health-awareness initiatives and events, such as annual biometric screenings and flu shots for employees on the health insurance plan (with no out-of-pocket costs), weight-loss competitions and other health promotion activities
“The rising cost of healthcare impacts our workforce, their families, and the County,” Seals said. “We are looking hard at other areas to find savings to bend the cost increase trend, in the hope to announce a long-term solution so we can assist and retain the County’s hard working employees.”