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County seeks to reduce health insurance costs

GENEVA – With health insurance costing Kane County about $12 million – or about 20 percent of the property tax levy – county leaders are looking for ways to cut that spending.

“We need to innovate as best this committee can,” County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen said Wednesday during a Human Services Committee meeting.

Representatives of Libertyville-based employee benefits consulting firm Global Benefits Group presented the committee with strategies that have the potential to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But, Global president Laurence Marx said, there must be some engagement and accountability from the employees.

Paid claims, for example, represent 87 percent of the annual medical benefit cost. According to Global Benefits Group, of the $8.3 million PPO medical claims in 2013, about $3.3 million came from large claimants, and $1.6 million came from pharmacy claims.

Pointing to a list of the top 15 claims, Marx said at least half stemmed from controllable or manageable diseases, such as diabetes.

These large claims exist despite a 97.8 percent participation rate in a health screening program for which a $600 annual incentive is offered, Marx said. About two-thirds of participants did not share their results with their doctor, he said, and many ignored the goal to improve, regressed or did not act to manage a condition they were aware of.

Marx said the incentive could be changed. Options include awarding the $600 to those who meet their goal, or splitting the incentive so they get half just for participating and the rest if they meet their goals.

If large claims are reduced by 10 percent, Global Benefits Group estimates short-term savings could amount to $130,000 in savings.

That and other strategies – such as encouraging mail-order for maintenance medications; establishing rules about covering spouses who are employed elsewhere and are offered benefits; and using medical advocacy programs and transparency tools – have a potential cost impact of $847,643.

“All these changes are going to cause some change for employees,” Marx said.

The county is self-insured and has a third-party administrator, Blue Cross Blue Shield. According to Global Benefits Group, administration fees for BCBS totaled about $300,000 for the first six months of 2014.

“No wonder our health insurance costs so much,” said board member Mike Kenyon, R-South Elgin.

No action was taken on the suggestions presented.

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