County sees reduction in health care premiums

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County will see a savings in health insurance costs for the next two years.

The county board on Monday accepted an agreement with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for employee and retiree health care that will reduce premiums by 5.38 percent in 2019. The maximum increase for 2020 is capped at 3.85 percent, which still would make the rate about 2 percent lower than what’s now being paid, Controller Brian Bousley said.

The county’s premiums had gone up 4.79 percent this year.

Health insurance represents a sizable portion of the annual budget, with the county projected to pay $950,400 this year for retiree health insurance alone — about 10 percent of total county spending. Employees hired after 1995 are not eligible for such benefits upon retirement.

In recent years, the county has purchased high-deductible health plans combined with Health Savings Accounts or Health Reimbursement Accounts, which have shown favorable utilization rates and have collectively saved in health care costs, Bousley said.

Employees pay 20 percent of the cost of premiums.

In other action Monday, the county board:

— Accepted an agreement with the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, providing a state grant of $447,866 with a required county match of $67,716 for a one-year period beginning Oct. 1. Circuit Court Judge Mary Barglind explained the grant is to help counties meet new state-mandated requirements for indigent defense. After an initial 20 percent payment, counties are required to submit quarterly reports for future reimbursements, so the dollar amounts are estimates. But if they hold true, Barglind said, the county will be saving about $100,000 from current expenditures. The program provides legal counsel to defendants who can’t afford an attorney.

— Heard Commissioner John Degenaer Jr. report the Dickinson County Fair achieved an estimated $155,000 profit this year. Attendance was about the same, but revenues were up substantially, he said.

— Learned from Bousley that Ford Airport has had 12,649 passenger boardings through August, putting the airport on pace for 20,000 for the year. That’s double the 10,000 needed for the airport to qualify for up to $1 million in Airport Improvement Program funds. This year’s possibly record traffic marks six straight years the county has qualified for AIP funds available only to primary airports.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 26, or janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.