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Health insurance costs going up for county workers

Nov. 21, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- Employees for Lawrence County government offices will pay higher deductible health insurance costs starting next month, a move county officials say will save about $200,000 and allow them to keep more employees working next year at the Lawrence County sheriff's office.

The deductible for county workers will increase by $500. The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners agreed to keep United Health Care as the insurer next year even though its costs are increasing by 8 percent. The increase would have cost about $400,000, said County Commissioner Les Boggs.

"We are faced with decreasing benefits or cutting the budget," Boggs said.

Commissioner Bill Pratt favored cutting costs in an effort to save jobs next year in the sheriff's office. "Someone, most likely, will lose their job" if the county paid the entire cost of the health insurance increase, Pratt said.

Board members also rescinded an earlier proposal to change the company providing life insurance and long-term disability insurance by a vote of 2-1. Boggs cast the dissenting vote.

The board then voted to keep Lincoln Financial as the provider for life insurance and long-term disability insurance. The board had voted 3-0 earlier to give the work to Mutual of Omaha after 16 employees in the road department asked for the change. Boggs said the benefits and coverage would have been the same with the new company.

"I believe there are enough legitimate reasons to change," Boggs said.

However, Commissioner Freddie Hayes Jr. said most employees didn't want to change. Pratt agreed, saying, "I feel there's not enough reasons to change. There's not enough gain."

Mack Anderson, an assistant county prosecutor, said the county has a contract with Lincoln Financial.

Steve Jenkins, a security officer in Lawrence County juvenile-probate court, opposed the proposed change to Mutual of Omaha. He expressed concerns about a one-year waiting period and retirement benefits.

In other action, the board received a petition from Ted Riedel, an Ironton area resident, asking the county to push for extending cellphone service along Ohio 93. He submitted a petition with 955 signatures requesting a cellphone tower north of Ironton to serve the Rock Hill school district and the U.S. Forest Service in the Lake Vesuvius area.

Residents in sections of Elizabeth, Decatur and Upper Township don't have cellphone service, Riedel said.

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