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updated: 11/9/2011 3:57 PM

Kane Co. inks insurance deal for big tax savings

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Kane County taxpayers will spend less money on health insurance for county board members and employees via a new plan approved by officials this week.

Like many public and private organizations, Kane County was on the cusp of seeing a 6-percent increase in insurance costs in 2012. That would have resulted in taxpayers footing the bill for nearly $900,000 of increased insurance costs for the county's 1,300 employees and its part-time board members.

But county officials teamed up with a broker and county union groups to negotiate out-of-pocket increases for employees that should translate into a $637,000 savings for taxpayers.

Both in-network and out-of-network deductibles and co-pays will increase for workers taking the county's insurance next year. In particular, the co-pay for emergency room visits will rise by $150. County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said that increase in particular was a focus during the negotiations.

"We have had a higher than average number of folks using the emergency room as their regular doctor," McConnaughay said. "That's very costly all the way around. We increased that co-pay to encourage our employees to seek out a more traditional approach to health care."

After an initially slow adoption, about 90 percent of the county's employees now participate in an employee wellness program. The program encourages exercise and healthy eating. The county built financial incentives into the wellness program to drive participation. Employees who participate in the program pay less for their insurance than those who don't.

The idea is that healthy employees have fewer health problems and lower medical costs for both them and the county.

One county board member, Deb Allan, has suggested creating a pool of money from what the county will save that employees and board members could tap into if the higher out-of-pocket costs prove too costly for some employees. Allan is one of 14 (out of 26) part-time county board members on the county's insurance plan. Her idea has not received any debate by the rest of the board so far.

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