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St. Croix County offers extra raises for insurance concessions

Although the agreements haven't been approved by union membership yet, last week the St. Croix County Board approved three-year contracts that would give annual 2 percent raises to 300 workers in four employee groups.

The agreements also offer additional 1 percent mid-year raises if a new insurance plan is in place by July 1, 2008. The plan, which includes a deductible, would be optional in 2009 but mandatory for all employees by 2011.

The contracts are for the General Government Support Services, Health Center, Human Services and Highway Department unions. The four unions represent 313 workers, including highway maintenance workers, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, clerks, technicians and secretaries.

Human Resources Administrator Tammy Funk predicted that it will be about a month before union votes on the contracts can be held.

"It just seemed unfair to plop this on a new board," said Administrative Coordinator Chuck Whiting, explaining why supervisors were asked to vote on the packages in March rather than in April after the election.

The proposals include an unusual initiative intended to stem the rising cost of county health insurance.

The employees, who pay 10 percent of health insurance premiums, now have co-pays but no deductibles.

The new system would have a $1,500 annual deductible and would set up a $1,500 health reimbursement account (HRA) for each employee. The first year the employee would be liable for $100 of that account and the county $1,400. The second year the employee would assume $200 of that liability.

Also, said Whiting, the intent is that an employee who didn't use the full $1,500 HRA in a year would have a credit to carry over to the next year.

The county is self insured, but does carry reinsurance to cover total claims or individual claims once either reaches the reinsurance threshold.

The proposed change, said Whiting, would result in a lower cost for reinsurance.

Also, he said, it will make employees more aware of their health. He said the new plan will include a component to encourage wellness.