County changes insurance to Pacificare

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Routt County commissioners decided Tuesday to change the county's health insurance provider from Anthem to Pacificare, facing increased costs no matter which provider they chose.

At their meeting, the commissioners said that if the county's premium costs continue to increase as expected, employees could have to contribute more to paying for their health care. Currently, county employees pay $1 a month for individuals and $2 a month for families for the county's core health insurance plan, and can buy a bigger plan.

Pacificare's insurance plan will cost the county $1.6 million, or 16 percent more than the county spent for insurance this year.

The county switched to Anthem last year from longtime provider Principal to save about $200,000. Officials decided to take health insurance back out to bid this year because of customer service complaints related to Anthem, Routt County Personnel Director Chris Hensen said.

A committee of county employees examined the health insurance plans and made the recommendation to switch to Pacificare.

Employees at the Tuesday meeting voiced concerns that the county was switching providers for the second year in a row and that the new plans did not offer coverage for physical therapy without a significant deductible.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said she thought the health insurance package the county could offer for 2005 would be better than what Anthem had provided, especially because she felt there were problems with Anthem's customer service.

Despite constantly increasing costs, she said she thought the county was still able to offer "a wonderful benefit" to its employees.

She said that employees needed to be aware that as the county's premium continues to increase, the county will work to keep the cost to employees low, but that that "is not going to last forever."

Routt County received four bids from new health insurance companies: United Health Care, Rocky Mountain Health Plan, Pacificare and County Technical Services County Health Pool. It also received a bid from Anthem.

All bids were higher than this year's cost, with Pacificare having the smallest cost increase.

Anthem's bid came back at a 29 percent increase, for a total of $1.75 million. The county has budgeted a 20 percent increase for health insurance in 2005, so it would have had to find a way to make up any increase over 20 percent.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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