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Several members of the Commissioners Court have made it clear that they want to take a hard look at county employee benefits this year. County Judge Keith Self and Commissioner Matt Shaheen both have stated on several occasions that they thought that the county plans should come closer to mirroring those offered in private industry. Commissioner Hoagland has lately railed about the county subsidizing premiums for employees' family members.
The Jaynes plan.
(Click image for full presentation)
The Commissioners Court has also stated its concern over the growth of "unfunded liabilities". These are payments due in the future, mostly for retirement benefits. Estimates of the scale of these future unfunded liabilities range from $40 - $80 million.
At last Monday's court, Commissioner Joe Jaynes offered some ideas to reduce the county's liability for current employees medical plans. His plan would move the county more in line with the median plans offered by other government bodies in Texas.
Currently, the county offers two plans to its employees and their families. The "Regular Plan" costs an employee $10 per month and up to $200/month for family coverage. The "Premium Plan" costs $35/month for the employee only and rises to $290/month for families.
Collin County's employee paid premiums range close to the lower third of comparable government plans in Texas.
Commissioner Jaynes plan would raise employee premiums a modest amount -- from $10 to $40 per month depending on the coverage and family. The premium increases will, in Jaynes words, "more closely align Collin County to the averages and save approximately $375,000" per year.
Jaynes also proposes:
- Raising deductibles by $250/yr thereby saving the county $425,000/yr.
- Eliminate all "Out of Network" benefits for a savings of $500,000.
- End all coverage for any dependent who is covered by another plan. This would save the county an estimated $300,000.
- Increase copays for specialists in Premium Plan by $10 for an annual savings of $400,000.
The total savings in the 2011 budget would be about $2 million.
Commissioner Jaynes reminded the court that the county had some employees who are, "bringing home less than $400 per week." He offered these changes as the least expensive alternative to large employee premium hikes. Jaynes will also ask the court to increase the "Pay for Performance" pay increases to 1.5% to help cushion the effect of the increase in medical insurance costs.
Commissioner Jaynes also spoke about the medical benefits offered to retirees. Currently the retirees get the same plans as employees, resulting in huge unfunded liabilities. Commissioner Jaynes reminded the court that when the retirement plans were first set up, the intent of the Commissioners Court was that Medicare be the primary insurance with the county supplying a "medi-gap" policy to extend the basic Medicare coverage. Jaynes proposed that the county look to returning to that model. In the meantime, he proposed that retiree premiums rise with the employee premiums.
The discussions on employee health benefits are part of the discussions leading up to the 2011 Budget meetings, slated to begin this week or next. (Although no budget meetings are presently scheduled on the county's website)
There will be more preliminary budget discussions at the Commissioners Court meeting tonight. The court is meeting at 6:00 PM in the Jack Hatchell Administrative Building, 2300 Bloomdale Rd. in McKinney.
The meeting is open to the public. Public comments are welcome and are usually allowed at the beginning of the meeting.
It's time the public sector employees start feeling some of the effects, just like the rest of us in the private sector. Join the club.
But in my opinion, one of the most lucrative deals that the county employees enjoy for now is the 17% match on their retirement savings plan. Below is what our company provides...
• The company matches your contributions to a MAXIMUM MATCH of $750 per quarter ($3,000 MAXIMUM per year ). PLEASE NOTE: The “Company Match” was suspended between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010 as part of the company’s response to the Global Economic Environment (which included the 5% pay cut across the board).
• $205 per month for family health insurance. Additional costs for dental, vision, etc.
• Out of network benefits require an out-of-network $1,500 deductible before any benefits are paid, and even then, they are very limited, making it difficult to go outside of the network at all.
Benefits offered to retirees... I'd like to know what the industry standard is for other larger county retirees throughout the state, however, I am aware that such unfunded future debt is crippling these governmental budgets at an increasing rate. At the very minimum, Commissioner Jaynes proposal of going back to the Medi-Gap mentality should be implemented immediately. I can see offering our retirees the privilege of the retiree fully paying for their benefits (at the entire cost to the county of those benefits - which is still a discount vs. a private policy), but for the county to continue to pay for a retiree's monthly benefit costs at the same rate as an active employee is just not a sustainable model, in my opinion. The citizens are getting nothing for that expenditure - unless it happens to give them a warm-fuzzy feeling or something. But I am speaking from a budget-minded, concerned taxpayer's point of view. *Yes, I realize that they counted on these benefits and they did their time, etc. - but so did the rest of us that are still contributing to Social Security - and it won't be there for us either. Additionally, other companies go broke every day - and IF their retirees are receiving any ongoing benefits, they are also left in a lurch... which is all part of that "mirroring private industry" approach. Things change - and Collin County has grown exponentially.
Thanks to Commissioner Jaynes for these insightful proposals - and to Commissioner Shaheen, Commissioner Hoagland, and Judge Self.
It is ludicrous that county government employees should receive benefits that are significantly better than those offered by the vast majority of private employers, particularly when many of these people would not even be qualified for the positions in private industry.
We can no longer afford to offer "Cadillac" benefit packages to people who can't get a job anywhere but within the web of government offices where hiring is driven by anything but merit.
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