Mecklenburg County may change how it offers health care to employees in the next few years as it adapts to a federal tax on high-cost insurance plans.
That could include a move to consumer-driven health plans, which require employees to pay high deductibles rather than pricey annual premiums associated with some traditional health plans, Mecklenburg County Human Resources Director Joel Riddle said Tuesday.
The county is considering a health savings account, which allows workers to contribute money that carries over year-to-year if the funds go unused. But he stressed officials had not formally decided on any plan changes.
“We are only exploring options,” he said after meeting with commissioners. “As health care costs continue to go up, we’re just like anybody else. We’ve got to address it.”
The Cadillac tax, a provision of the Affordable Care Act, levies a 40 percent tax on employers that offer health plans exceeding thresholds for individual and family coverage. Those thresholds are $10,200 and $27,500, respectively.
Mecklenburg County’s plans cost more, meaning it could face significant penalties if health plans remain unchanged. County officials aim to unveil new health plan options that fall below the thresholds before the tax goes into effect in 2020.
As it tries to keep health care costs low, the county also wants to provide incentives for its wellness program so employees make cost-conscience health decisions. That includes offering biometric screenings that expose health risks and giving employees premium discounts for participating in the program, said LaKishia Monserrate, county wellness coordinator.
Overall health among employees has improved since 2009, when the county spent $6.7 million on medical claims for workers, Monserrate said.
Still, 43 percent of the county’s employees with medical claims in 2014 had at least one or more chronic conditions, and employees on average used their benefits more on emergency room visits than any other medical service, she said.
“We have more employees who visit the emergency room for care versus their primary physician,” she said. “That can be costly.”