Consortium may provide insurance options for Dodge County

August 23, 2018

JUNEAU — in order to provide the best options for employees, Dodge County may form an insurance consortium.

That idea and its possible benefits were discussed at Tuesday night’s Dodge County Board meeting.

“Jefferson County reached out to us back in April of 2017,” said Dodge County Human Resources Director Sarah Hinze. “There was talk that the state was going to eliminate our plan, which is a $500 single, $1,000 family deductible plan. The question was that if they were going to eliminate our plan, what were we going to do? They wanted to talk about the possibility of us joining forces to improve our insurance buying power if we all moved out of the state plan.”

Area cities were invited as well. Currently, the proposed consortium would gather Dodge and Jefferson counties, along with the cities of Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Waterloo, Whitewater, Lake Mills and Beaver Dam. The city of Watertown might also join, along with the city of Juneau if the Affordable Care Act eventually allows a city of that size to join a consortium, which it currently does not.

Consultant Jeff Ireland of M3’s Madison office was enlisted to compare similar HMO plans and see if a high-deductible plan with a health savings account could also be pursued. Since the latter option will save the county money as well, the county would contribute $1,000 to a single user’s HSA or $2,000 to a family’s HSA.

According to Hinze, the idea of a high-deductible plan seems popular among county employees.

“We did employee training session the last two, three weeks,” Hinze said. “More than 418 employees came to those and they had a lot of really good questions related to the HSAs. A lot of people are saying it is really nice. They said they’d be happy if this were offered.”

The county employs approximately 950 individuals and about 700 of them participate in the county’s health insurance program. The county covers 88.5 percent of the premiums. Employees choose from five different plans approved for the county.

Several insurance companies responded in 2017, but everyone involved in the process decided to keep what they had for 2018 and to try again for 2019, according to Hinze. The most affordable HMO proposals for 2018 came from Dean and Quartz Community (formerly Unity). The consortium rates for 2019 will increase approximately 3.5 percent for Dean and approximately 15.5 percent for Quartz Community. It remains to be seen how the state plan’s premiums will change.

“The thing is that with the state plan, there is just one option,” Hinze said. “The state also has a high-deductible and a zero-deductible plan, but if we want to switch, all our employees must switch as well. Our consortium, on the other hand, will allow us to provide low-deductible and high-deductible options. That’s a big selling point for the consortium as a whole. The employees can choose based on their individual or family needs.

“Of course, the state may choose to allow those choices as well, but currently they do not.”

Three resolutions will be presented to the board in September — to withdraw from the state plan, to approve Dean as the provider and to approve the two options (low or high deductible). The rates of the state plan, which will be known by then, will determine if any switch is going to be made.

“At this point, our recommendation is to move away from the state so we can offer two different options,” Hinze said.

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