Haralson County commissioners last week approved a major change in the insurance plan for the county’s 200 employees, moving to drop their current network of health service providers in favor of a new plan – and thus avoid a 17 percent hike in premiums looming for July.
In other business, the commissioners had an exchange with representatives of the county school board over requirements for bond sales, moved forward with an ordinance to control “synthetic marijuana” and drug paraphernalia, and discussed issues related to the county’s budget and the disused Boot Camp.
County employees will be called to meetings on June 4, 5 and 6 to hear details about a new insurance plan; a Point of Service, or P.O.S. network, in which Tanner Medical System is a participant. The commissioners approved the change from the current Blue Cross/Blue Shield P.P.O. network based on a presentation by Randy Sanders of Sanders Insurance Co., Tallapoosa, that the move would save 17 percent on the county’s monthly premiums.
Sanders told the board there had been several large claims filed with Blue Cross/Blue Shield in recent months on behalf of county employees or dependants, the largest of which involved cancer treatments.
“Nobody can help this,” Sanders told the board. “This is what you have insurance for.”
However, those large claims had tipped the balance in the point loss ratio with the insurance company, pushing the county into an increase of $8,000 for its monthly premium bill. Since the county was set to renew its policy on July 1, Sanders said, this meant the monthly premium would jump from the current $105,949.08 bill for June, to $123,960.12
Sanders described the P.P.O – or Preferred Provider Organization – system as “a dinosaur – they’re extinct.” Sanders said that since the Tanner system has joined a new Point of Service model, he has been moving many of the companies his agency represents to the new system with no complaints from the employees.
“I know it works,” Sanders said. “I know the savings is real.”
A spokesman for Sanders’ company said Tuesday there would be no major changes noticeable to county employees. Sanders told commissioners he and his staff would be prepared to answer all county employees’ questions about which doctors and hospitals are part of the new P.O.S. network during the enrollment meetings in early June.
Also during the work session, commissioners had an exchange with representatives of the county school board after hearing that, as part of the process of authorizing a bond sale, the commissioners may be required – as a contingency – to levy a property tax increase.
Brett Stanton, superintendent of the school system, came before the board to request a tax levy resolution be added to the commission’s agenda sometime during June, so that the school system can proceed with a sale of bonds authorized by voters last March for capital improvements.
The monies for the $5 million bond issue are meant to be collected from Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenues, but the commissioners seemed surprised to learn that the resolution Stanton was requesting could theoretically require commissioners to raise taxes.
A representative of Raymond James/Morgan Keegan, a financial advisement firm, explained to the board that the potential tax levy was unlikely, but was part of a three-tiered plan required under state law. In the “very unlikely” event that SPLOST revenues failed to finance the bonds, the money would come from the county general fund. Should those funds be insufficient, then the commissioners would have to levy a property tax increase on behalf of the School Board.
The possibility, however remote, of raising taxes was met with disapproval from the board.
“Why haven’t we talked about this before now?” asked District One Commissioner Eric Robinson. “Anytime you’ve got the potential to levy additional taxes on somebody … it would be nice to discuss it before.”
District Three Commissioner Vance Posey declared that, if it came to it, he would never vote for a tax increase: “I’ll tell you that up front.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Signed an emergency order, issued at the last public meeting, setting penalties for local merchants who sell “synthetic marijuana” products already outlawed by state law, as well as banning drug paraphernalia. The order was issued in lieu of an ordinance, which will be voted on at a future public meeting.
• Discussed a “wish list” of budgets submitted by county departments that potentially would raise the total county budget to $14 million. The commissioners appeared determined to hold the budget at its current level of $12 million.
• Approved a suggestion by county law enforcement that Animal Control personnel be certified officers, freeing Animal Control personnel from the responsibility of calling law officers before taking action.
• Discussed the status of the disused Boot Camp. Having heard no communication from the state, the commissioners seemed determined to halt all lease payments in July. The commissioners also discussed the possibility of using the facility to house inmate work details.