Highland County Commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and Gary Abernathy approved two motions affecting county employees’ health insurance during an emergency meeting Thursday, July 11.

Representatives of the county’s health insurance broker, Brown/Raybourn, met with commissioners during an executive session Wednesday afternoon. As a result, Duncan said that the commissioners’ office has received numerous calls from county employees asking about the status of their insurance plan.

“They [Brown/Raybourn] came to us with some updated details, and we feel like we need to act on it because we’re getting calls from our employees about some of the questions that were posed yesterday,” Duncan said. “We feel like we need to act on this today so we can let our employees know what’s going on.”

Britton added that action was necessary Thursday as the county is facing an enrollment deadline the following day, July 12, for their insurance plan.

Abernathy explained that the county was looking into offering Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as an alternative to regular insurance for county employees.

“There was interest, but people had so many questions,” Abernathy said. “We had a deadline of tomorrow to let them know if we wanted to do the HSAs.”

According to Abernathy, the county’s representatives from Brown/Raybourn, David Brown and Belinda McCollum, spoke with Medical Mutual and let the county know that they “agreed to allow us to offer this beginning in January and not have to wait a whole year, which is very unusual.”

“That will give Belinda and David time to come back in, meet with different departments, explain it more thoroughly and answer more questions,” Abernathy said. “Employees will have a chance to make that decision to switch from traditional to the HSA, effective January.”

Duncan said that their health insurance is typically renewed in August, so the HSA offer is for “a short year, of January to August.”

Commissioners voted 3-0 to approve a motion to “delay implementation of the HSA option until later in the year, which would become effective Jan. 1.”

Britton emphasized that the county will still offer “our same traditional insurance. This is just an option.”

As previously reported, Duncan said that Medical Mutual of Ohio has estimated a 4.9-percent increase for health insurance coverage for county employees.

Britton said “because we didn’t get this taken care of,” commissioners needed to vote on whether to “the deduction on the employees’ portion is going to have to be doubled up” for one pay period or if the county would cover that cost for the additional 4.9-percent increase.

“In the past, if they were late, which we are this year, the county would basically pick up that half for the month, since they get paid twice a month,” Britton said. “They should have been paying it this pay period, but that couldn’t happen because of all the negotiations that were going on.”

Abernathy said the cost to the county would be approximately $1,200.

“I think there’s a fairness in doing that because it wasn’t the employees’ fault that it didn’t get deducted in this check that’s coming out tomorrow,” Abernathy said.

Duncan said he agreed. “Due to time constraints, this was just an oversight on our part,” he said, although he and Abernathy said the insurance companies are also to blame because they “can’t get the numbers to us” in a timely fashion.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to “pick up the difference for one pay period” for county employees.

“Now we can get the word out to employees,” Britton said. “It’s important when you’re talking about health insurance, and we want to make sure we get it right, to the best of our ability.”