TRUMBULL COUNTY Workers' health coverage will change

The change includes employees' paying for part of the cost of doctor's office visits.
WARREN -- More than 900 Trumbull County employees will see a change in health coverage beginning next month, and county officials contend it could save about $2 million annually.
Commissioners approved the change at a meeting Wednesday, adopting a preferred provider program. Under the insurance plan, employees will have to use a particular network of doctors to get the best insurance coverage. The change includes employees' paying for part of the cost of doctor visits and monthly premiums.
The change comes at the recommendation of Willis of Ohio, a company contracted to review the county's insurance options.
Present plan
Under current plans, paid for entirely by the county, employees don't pay any out-of-pocket expense when they visit a doctor and can visit any doctor they wish.
The county had been paying about $11,000 a year for employees on its traditional plan, and $8,000 a year for employees in the HMO, officials have said.
Commissioners said the county is being affected by rising health-care costs that are plaguing the country. The change affects 920 union and nonunion employees in most county departments.
"It's a common change from the traditional, or what is called a dinosaur plan, to a more up-to-date PPO," Commissioner Michael J. O'Brien said. "The net result is savings for our taxpayers and fair and equitable health care for our employees."
James Keating, county director of human resources, said the change could save up to $2 million a year.
"In my opinion, this plan is a temporary adjustment," said Commissioner James G. Tsagaris.
But he said he questions the figures provided by the consulting company. Although commissioners asked employees for input into the health insurance, they got little response, he said.
"I want the insurance plan studied in more depth," Tsagaris said.
Commissioner Joseph J. Angelo said the plan is better than most in the area.
"We can live with it until something better comes along," he said.
The change mirrors what was negotiated in the contract with employees at the county Child Support Enforcement Agency last year.
"The benefit levels are pretty much what we bargained in the CSEA contract," said Mark Carlson, staff representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union affected.
"We're not excited about it, but we're pretty much stuck with it."

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