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County insurance committee discusses on-the-job injury program, Obamacare

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dyer County is bracing for the effects Obamacare will have on its insurance plans for county employees. The county's insurance committee gathered together on Tuesday morning to discuss several items in what would be Commissioner John Flatt's last committee meeting. Flatt, who serves as chairman of the insurance committee, was elected to the Newbern city board as an alderman on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and will step aside as county commissioner.

"Newbern's gain is our loss," said Mayor Richard Hill. "I want to recognize the fine job he has done for us serving on these committees."

Flatt will be sworn in next Tuesday and will begin serving a four-year term.

However, prior to departing Flatt wanted to gather the committee together to update everyone on where the county's insurance costs stand as well as to consider a request from Beverly McCann from the Newbern Medical Clinic to be placed on the on-the-job injury panel.

Flatt began the meeting by tracing the history of the "gatekeepers" who see the county employees who have sustained an injury in the course of their employment. Currently the county has two nurse practitioners serving as gatekeepers: Shari Heathcott in Dyersburg and Tammy Holcomb in Newbern. Flatt says that the location of each gives county employees an option in the northern and southern portions of the county.

"In talking with county attorney Michael Gauldin the thought was to stay at two," said Flatt. "If you add a third you open yourself up to having to add a fourth, fifth and so on. Where does it stop?"

Walter Bradshaw, who manages the county's on-the-job injury insurance, says that the provider they currently use has appreciated the county keeping the number of gatekeepers small and they indicated that everything was running smoothly in terms of billing and payments.

"For me this is not an economic factor," said McCann. "It's love."

McCann says that many of the county employees, especially those in the school system, are her regular patients at the Newbern Medical Clinic. She says they have expressed a desire for her to treat their on-the-job injuries. She assured the committee that she provides the best service for her patients with 24-hour service and employs two other nurse practitioners to allow for sufficient coverage when she is out of the office or unavailable.

"I see folks 24 hours a day if they need it to prevent using emergency rooms that are overcrowded," said McCann. "That's my contribution to health care economics."

Flatt asked Bradshaw how many on-the-job injury cases is the county averaging per year. Bradshaw responded that there are approximately 20 cases each year, translating to an average of less than two cases a month.

"It's nice to know that there is someone that is willing to take that on if we have the need," said Commissioner John Uitendaal. "At the same time I'm glad to hear that we have so few (on-the-job injury) cases."

Flatt said that he would like to follow the advice of Gauldin and Bradshaw and keep it at two, but he noted that the county should keep McCann's request on file in the event that something changes she should receive first consideration. He also stated that the committee should probably be involved in future appointments.

The committee then moved on to discuss the current insurance policy in place, with Flatt introducing a suggestion presented by Dyer County Sheriff Jeff Box. Flatt explained to the committee that Box indicated he might want to separate his employees from the county's insurance plan and possibly partner with other sheriff's departments to seek insurance coverage.

"We have to do everything possible for our employees," said Box. "We need to make (insurance plans) more competitive to pass those savings on to the employees and at the same time save the county money."

Box pointed out that county employees had not received a salary increase in the last four or five years. During the same period, insurance rates for employees and their dependents had significantly gone up, in essence cutting the employees salaries. Box told the committee that he is trying to retain the best people possible and it's difficult under those circumstances. He says he is looking at possibly joining with other sheriff's department to explore the best options for his employees.

Flatt acknowledged the sheriff's efforts and applauded him for doing what was in the best interest of his employees. He went on to comment that he believed that the sheriff's department may get a good quote the first year but over time it may not be as advantageous. In addition, removing the sheriff's department, which predominantly has a younger, healthier staff may not be in the best interests of the county as a whole.

"It needs to be researched further," said Flatt.

Box's concerns are being raised now because of the effects of Obamacare that is looming on the horizon. Flatt commented that he did not see how the county could continue to support the county employees' dependent ratio. Currently the county covers 60 percent of dependents, a number that Flatt says may have to be reduced when the insurance committee decides on the 2013-2014 plan.

Uitendaal asked the insurance agents in attendance, which included Bradshaw, Larry White and Donald Ray Pennington how they thought Obamacare was going to affect the insurance industry over the next four or five years.

"There are more questions than answers right now," said Pennington. "Some carriers have said that premiums will go up 175 percent. We are looking at a whole new arena in the next year and a half."

"I think the employees will be fine, it's the dependants that will be affected," said White.

After further discussion, Commissioner Kyle Reynolds suggested that the committee meet again in January to continue discussions and appoint a new chairman.

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how bout that the good ole boys & girls get to choose another good ole boy or girl!

-- Posted by closerlook on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 8:25 AM

When asked how Obamacare was going to affect the insurance industry over the next four or five years:

"There are more questions than answers right now," said Pennington. "Some carriers have said that premiums will go up 175 percent. We are looking at a whole new arena in the next year and a half."

Gee, that's refreshing! I thought Obamacare was supposed to be good for everyone and insurance rates would be affordable. At least that was what we were spoon-fed!

-- Posted by Jazzybrad on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 8:59 AM

Lol what is Pennington supposed to say....red county, red politics. You probably voted for Romney/Ryan..lol. Stop reading faux news and get your facts together.

-- Posted by win2kadm on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 1:51 PM

Maybe you need to get facts together, truth is obongocare will do 2 things, and this is fact.

1. Cost jobs, no one denies this.

2. Drive up the cost of healthcare as more and more are pushed onto government insurance( your precious obongocare)

-- Posted by liveshere on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 4:58 PM

1 David Siegel, the CEO who had warned his employees they'd face layoffs if President Obama was re-elected, gave everyone a 5% raise last week instead.

2 healthcare cost will go down as well as debt for the American taxpayers. Taxpayers and people already insured will no longer have to pay for the uninsured person showing up at the Emergency room.

-- Posted by win2kadm on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 6:57 PM

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