Dodge County to switch insurance providers

September 19, 2018

JUNEAU — Although not all Dodge County employees might be happy about it, the county board voted overwhelmingly to switch insurance carriers Tuesday night at the board’s regular monthly meeting.

The switch involves the formation of an insurance consortium. The proposed consortium would include 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-deductable plan with a health savings account (HSA) could also be pursued. Since the latter option will save the county money as well, the county would contribute $1,000 to an individual plan’s HSA or $2,000 to a family plan’s HSA.

According to Hinze, the idea of a high-deductable 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.”

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

A recent letter from Highway Department employees, sent to board members, begged to differ with the touted conclusions, urging board members to stick with the existing plan.

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.

According to county board member Joe Marsik, the state plan’s rates are set to increase 8 percent next year, with an increase in premiums of 117 percent.

Another reason for the switch was cited.

“The thing is that with the state plan, there is just one option,” Hinze said. “The state also has a high-deductable and a zero-deductable 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-deductable and high-deductable options. That’s a big selling point for the consortium as a whole.”

Judges made an impassioned plea to hire a consultant to plan an update for the audio-visual system in county courtrooms. The current system is 20 years old and functions sporadically at best.

“We’re holding it together with bubble gum and duct tape,” said Judge Joseph Sciascia. “We need to do better than that.”

Total replacement is anticipated to cost $650,000, with the board approving hiring a consultant to determine which options will serve the courts best.

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