County considers insurance options

Health insurance coverage for Fayette County employees will remain unchanged for at least one more month, as the county board considers another option.
During Tuesday’s meeting, county board member Jenny Waggoner, a member of the board’s insurance and personnel committee, told other board members that she had checked with at least 28 companies about providing health insurance for county employees.
What Waggoner is proposing is that the county consider joining with other Illinois counties in a HOPE trust.
With the HOPE trust, she said, the county would “have a little more control” over health insurance for employees.
Waggoner said that through the trust, employees could continue with coverage similar to what they have now or they could put money into a health savings account.
She said that with the trust, county employees could use the Fayette County Health Department for such things as blood pressure screenings and blood tests, which could provide indicators of severe health issues.
“We’ve got a health department, we might as well use them,” Waggoner said.
By joining the trust, she said, the county would “give the employees what they need, what they want,” providing both traditional coverage and a health savings account as options.
She said that should the county decide to join the trust, it would take about three months to get everything lined out.
The county’s current health insurance term, through Health Alliance, was extended by one month, and Jamie Simmons of Health Insurance told board members they could continue with Health Alliance on a month-by-month basis.
Simmons also countered claims made by Waggoner.
Simmons said that the county last year had three large claims and decided at that time not to go the self-funded route.
“What has changed in the committee’s eyes?” Simmons asked.
“We are all faced with the same issue – how do we control costs,” he said.
While a double-digit increase for the coming year is proposed, Simmons said, in the past 10 years, the county has not experienced double-digit percent increases, including one year with no increase.
About going with a HOPE trust, he said, “Yeah, it looks good on paper. It’s all soft money.”
Simmons told board members that Health Alliance has offered a health savings account for employees. “We could not get anybody to take it,” he said.
“There are some questions about their procedures,” Simmons said about the trust.
After the meeting, the board’s insurance committee of Waggoner, Chad Austin and Wade Wilhour agreed to meet with Simmons in the near future to discuss the issue further.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• The board agreed to renew the Fayette County Fair Association’s liquor license for another year.
• The board approved two updates to the county employees’ personnel police handbook.
Assistant State’s Attorney Brenda Duke told board members that more updates will be coming, and that she plans to work with County Clerk and Recorder Vicky Conder on a “complete overhaul” of the policy handbook, “so it is easy to use, with all of the updates in it.
“We want the employees to have a clear and concise definition of everything,” Duke said.
• Sheriff Chris Smith said that after some employees voiced complaints about mold in the courthouse, he brought in a professional to examine the building. That professional determined that there was no mold, that the air in the courthouse is similar to that outside.
• The board granted Smith’s requests to sell two 2011 Ford Crown Victorias formerly used as squad cars. The cars will be sold by sealed bids at a later date.
• Smith reported that his department’s Shop with a Cop served 72 children this year, the most since the program was started several years ago.
“People were giving (donations) like crazy,” he said, adding that he is convinced that the 72 children would not have Christmas without the program.
• The board approved intergovernmental agreements with Vandalia, St. Elmo, Brownstown, Ramsey, St. Elmo and Farina for the county’s animal control program.
Through the agreement, each municipality pays to a county a $1.50 per capita fee.
• The board approved an ordinance adopting a policy prohibiting sexual harassment.
• The board approved a resolution through which it agrees to participate in the Office of the Appellate Prosecutor’s service program. The county pays $7,000, which covers the use of appellate prosecutor attorneys in local cases, as needed.
• The board accepted the low bid of $239,070 from Depew and Owen Builders Inc. of Centralia for the replacement of a bridge four miles northeast of Ramsey on County Road 3250 North in Ramsey Township.
• Cat Lange of Bellwether, the county’s administrative consultant, told the board that it would begin using a consent agenda.
With a consent agenda, a number of items on the agenda, such as resolutions and ordinances, are combined into one vote, in order to shorten board meetings.
With such an agenda, individual items can by pulled from the group at the request of board members.
• The board met in closed session for just under an hour to discuss union negotiations.

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