TAWAS CITY – There could be more options for Iosco County employees for healthcare as the county tries to tie up the loose ends on a $500,000 budget shortfall.

Iosco County Administrator/Treasurer Elite Shellenbarger told commissioners during an Oct. 2 Committee of the Whole meeting that employees could have another choice through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan that would keep employees from paying part of the county’s capitulation or “cap” for the upcoming insurance year. The new choice, however, could limit the current benefits on insurance that employees enjoy.

Currently county employees do not pay a premium out of their wages for insurance benefits, though they do pay for various copays for prescriptions or doctor visits.

Shellenbarger floated the idea of either switching to an 80/20 plan, where employees pay 20 percent of the required cap, and the county paid the remaining 80 percent, to keep the same Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan insurance benefits.

Another idea was to have employees pay for the difference in the cap, as well as the increased insurance rate, to make up the difference.

As previously reported, under the county’s plan, if employees paid the difference, single payers on the insurance would have to pay $149.89 annually for their medical insurance, or $5.77 per check for each of their 26 pay periods. There are 27 individuals who are single payers on the county’s insurance.

For two-person payers, under the plan, they would have to pay $2,464.75 annually, or $94.80 per pay period. There are 34 individuals on this plan.

For family subscribers (more than three people on a plan) they would have to pay $2,309.44 annually, or $88.82 per pay period. There are 44 individuals who would fall under this plan under the county’s insurance.

Shellenbarger said there could be that insurance plan, and another with fewer benefits. He said he met with Blue Cross officials and the county’s insurance representative Mark Elliot of Tawas Bay Insurance to discuss what could be done on the cost.

“Drugs are probably the single most issue that has made the cost go up, but we did look at the possibility of if there is a Blue Cross plan that would bring us under the cap, but it eliminates a lot of drugs,” Shellenbarger said. “So they are going to prepare a benefit list for each plan.”

Shellenbarger said for employees that wish to keep their current benefits, they will have to pay what is over the cap to make up the difference.

“Or you can have the other Blue Cross plan, but your benefits are going to be less than what you have now and depending on your situation it may not affect you. 

Shellenbarger said, however, that he is concerned that there could be employees that may opt to get fewer benefits but then need them later could face high medical bills if there is a medical emergency.

“But that is what insurance is all about,” he said. “At the end of the day we’ll be making that option to the employees, that could come relatively soon, but I think that is the best way to approach it. So there will be more to come on it, but that is where we are at it.”