County approves new health insurance carrier

The Marion County Commission voted unanimously at its meeting April 10 to change the insurance carrier from Blue Cross Blue Shield and go with United Health Care, but also to raise premiums.

County Clerk Tina Spen­cer reviewed the final numbers noting that the new premium for the employee and family under United Health Care is about $1,500.

“On the family plan, the out-of-pocket cost is about $700 a month,” she said, “with the county paying the remainder of the premium at about $700.”

Employees without a family weren’t paying any of the premium in prior years, she said, but under the new plan, the employee will pay $35.

Employees with families will also see an increase o about $65 from what they were paying prior to the change under United Health Care, Spencer said.

The reason commissioners started shopping for a new insurance carrier was because Blue Cross Blue Shield stated claims have steadily increased in the last few years.

Spencer said BCBS explained to her that claims were rising from $300,000 and up, with this year’s total amount in claims for county employees will be about $1 million.

“(The county’s) current premium level before renewal is at $768,560,” she said, “and the budgeted amount for 2018 was set at $844,420.”

However, with claims exceeding expectations, a BCBS representative told Spencer that if the county stays at all current contribution levels, the premium would be $1,000,429.

Based on the increase, the commissioners needed to consider other options.

At the April 3 meeting, the county commissioners voted to pay $3,000 HUB International to advise them of available insurance plans similar to BCBS.

Mark Isley, president of the group, selected options for the commissioners to consider.

The idea of using Isley’s company, he said, is to come up with a benefit package for the employees, while at the same time helping employers meet employee needs with their own capabilities and bottom line.

Employees and their families will also have dental, additional lab at 100 percent and a preventative health component.

Radio upgrades

A public hearing to discuss grant funding for radio upgrades from 400 MHz to 800 MHz was considered Monday afternoon at the commission meeting, but nothing new passed.

Attending the meeting were Sheriff Rob Craft, Undersheriff David Huntley, Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke, and Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning.

Others at the meeting were Marion City Administrator Roger Holter, TBS (radio vendor) representative Mark Grabar, fire chiefs Daniel Stuchlik, Lester Kai­ser and Brad Pagenkopf.

Emergency Management director Randy Frank and Linda Klenda, 911 supervisor, were also available.

Most of the questions, Spencer said, revolved around the fire districts, their readiness to transition and possible grant opportunities.

Craft said he would like to see everyone changeover by December, but that is not realistic and he will not set a firm deadline for then.

“We will maintain both systems until everyone can transition,” he said.

According to information from the county’s fire agencies, they aren’t looking at a change to the 800 MHz until at least June 2018, and possibly later.

In addition to the public hearing, fire agencies are expected to talk more about this issue at the net Fire Chief’s Association meeting.

Spencer said she would attend and also Grabar to go over financing options.

“Several of the districts may qualify for grant funds,” she said, “with Marion County possibly applying for the grants on behalf of the districts and with its consent.

Other business

In other business, the commissioners:

• spoke with EMS director Ed Debesis regarding housing, but there was nothing new to report.

• accepted the transport fuel bid from Epps in Elbing for $15,569. The other bids included Cooperative Grain & Supply at Hillsboro with a bid of $15,604; Cardie Oil of Tampa at $15.757 and Agri Trails Coop at Navarre, $15,762.

Jesse Hamm, director of Road & Bridge, also spoke with commissioners about turning gravel roads into asphalt roads. Those roads included:

• three miles of Timber from 40th to 10th Road.

• Pawnee from U.S. Highway 56 to 210th for three-quarters of a mile.

• 90th from Kansas Highway 15 to Chisholm Trail for one mile.

• Diamond from 330th to 370th for four miles.

• talked with Steve Hudson, Marion County Park and Lake superintendent, about preventing blue-green algae.

• listened to Bud Druse, director of the transfer station, who provided bids on a new mower for the transfer station. Druse said there is about one acre to mow. No decision was made.

• heard from Lisa Donahue, Heart 2 Heart Advocacy, who talked about the program. Donahue said the advocacy center serves Harvey, McPherson and Marion counties through Newton and McPherson.

The program promotes excellence in child abuse response and prevention through training, program development, advocacy and leadership.

Lori Hardin, Kansas Department of Children and Family Services at Newton, was also present to answer any questions, and to explain how the state can coordinate efforts with Heart 2 Heart.