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Dickinson adjusts benefits for some county retirees

IRON MOUNTAIN — Dickinson County will contract with Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, to administer health care benefits for county retirees that are eligible for Medicare.

The move is expected to provide improved coverage for eligible employees while also lowering the cost for the county, Controller Brian Bousley said.

Under the plan, the county will provide a monthly stipend so that each retiree can work with Mercer to purchase health coverage. The maximum stipend for 2021 will be $310 per person monthly, or $620 in cases where the spouse is also eligible for coverage. For individuals required to pay a percentage of the premium, that amount will be deducted from the stipend.

Money not used for premiums will remain in a Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan health care savings program and can be used for medical expenses.

The county board approved the plan this week, but did not discuss the amount of expected savings.

The cost for retiree health insurance in 2020 is projected at $780,000, representing about 8% of the general fund budget. Employees hired after 1995 are not eligible for such retirement benefits.

Eligible retirees will now be contacted by a benefit counselor from Mercer, which is a nationwide firm. The agreement will be reviewed annually to make sure it is satisfactory, Bousley said.

In other action, the county board:

— Extended its food service contract for the jail with Summit Food Service LLC of Sioux Falls, S.D. The cost per meal through May 12, 2021, is based on inmate population, ranging from $7.985 for 21 inmates to $2.468 for 91 inmates. The jail is built to house about 70 inmates at full capacity, which would be a cost of $3.222 per meal, up from the current $3.125.

— Approved a request from Judge Julie LaCost to fill the court recorder position in district court.

— Heard Bousley report the county has applied for $219,000 in Public Safety and Public Health Payroll Reimbursement Program funds made available in Michigan through the federal CARES Act, although it’s not known how much the actual payment might be.

— Agreed to continue holding its regular meetings in the circuit courtroom of the courthouse, practicing social distancing. Zoom conferencing will be available as well. Public participation guidelines will be posted at http://www.dickinsoncountymi.gov/.

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