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Nonunion employees will be paying more for health care



Published: Mon, July 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Workers have been contributing at 2003 levels.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Most of Mahoning County's nonunion employees will begin paying the full 10 percent of their hospitalization costs for this year with their Aug. 5 paychecks.

County commissioners sent out a memorandum through James Petraglia, the county's human resources director, at the end of June about the health care contributions to all county employees.

The county will know the exact number of employees affected by July 20, when the payroll deduction information is uploaded to the auditor's office, said Sherri Shultz, the county's benefits administrator.

Co-pay provisions for unionized employees and other departments such as the common pleas and county courts will remain in effect until contracts are renegotiated or court orders put on to include the 10 percent provision, the memo says.

Shultz explained that the 10 percent contributions for county employees began in March 2003. The county's self-insured hospitalization plan is with Medical Mutual of Ohio, and employees can choose between two plans -- "select" with vision and "plus" with vision.

Rate increase

The funding rate for those plans since 2003 has increased with each health care renewal because of the county's benefit design, rising health costs and claims history, the memo says.

Employee contributions, however, were not increased. Thus, the county is now revising the employee contributions to reflect 10 percent of the 2005 funding rate.

For example, the total 2005 funding rate for employees with the single select plan with vision is $442.20 a month and $1,040.59 a month for the family select plan.

Employees should be paying $44.22 and $104.06 a month, respectively. But they are paying $27.30 and $61.98 a month.

The memo says the increased co-pay contribution will be deducted on a biweekly basis beginning with employees' Aug. 5 paycheck.

The memo encourages employees to check with the human resources department if they have questions.

Savings

Shultz said the change will provide a savings to the county as employees will pay the full 10 percent of the funding rate for this year.

Commissioner John A. McNally IV said he and Commissioner Anthony Traficanti talked during their election campaigns, as well as the half-percent sales tax campaign, about the 10 percent contribution being necessary to help keep health care costs manageable.

"The taxpayers frequently asked about the issue and the amounts," McNally said. "We should work on a health care plan that continues to spread the costs around between employer and employee in hopes of reducing total premiums that the county is responsible for."

McNally added that all county employees should be commended because they know that these changes are coming and "they realize that it is to be expected that they contribute more or that they start contributing."

Benchmark

In April, commissioners insisted that all county employees, including those in unions, should be paying the same amount for their health care across the board.

Traficanti said at that time that 10 percent should be the benchmark.

In the past, the general division of the common pleas courts has balked at instituting the health insurance co-pays. But, beginning in August, the judges and their 29 employees will begin making health insurance contributions.

Contributions will range from $27.30 a month for the single-select plan to $61.98 a month for the family-select plan, which is the current rate being paid by nonunion employees.

It will be up to the judges to determine if they will increase those amounts to coincide with what the other nonunion employees will begin paying.

Commissioners are hoping the 10 percent co-pay will be included in all renegotiated contracts with county union employees.




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