CHARLESTON - Mississippi County commissioners won't need to sweat finding a new health insurance plan for elected officials and county employees after being assured their plan is legitimate, but others aren't so lucky.
"I'm glad we're not in the same boat the (East Prairie) school district's in," said Commissioner Martin Lucas during Thursday's county commission meeting. Lucas also serves on the East Prairie school board.
The East Prairie School District is one of 35 self-insured through Greater Missouri Educational Trust which operates the insurance pool.
"The thing's bankrupt," said Lucas. "It owes over $2 million."
Jack McIntosh, superintendent for East Prairie schools, said he believes the company is still solvent as plenty of school districts are remaining with G-MET.
Other area school districts covered by G-MET include Scott City, Oran, Kelly, Scott County Central and Chaffee which just recently joined, according to McIntosh.
"They were slow in paying the bills - they pay them, but they're slow," McIntosh said. "It's shaky enough that my board wants out if we can find someone that will cover us."
East Prairie accounted for only 100 of the 4,000 lives covered in the pool. "So we're just a small part," McIntosh said.
District officials are looking at ending their contract with G-MET at the end of the district's fiscal year in June.
"We're currently soliciting bids," McIntosh said. "We anticipate having a packet together by Feb. 11 for any insurance company that wants to look at it."
McIntosh said the board will decide on coverage in late March so they are ready to go with the new plan July 1.
Lucas said G-MET was too good to be true like the county's previous health insurance. "They started like Health Net Blue - paid everything."
Overuse and even outright abuse of health insurance plans are a big factor in the skyrocketing premiums seen today, according to Jim Blumenberg, presiding commissioner. "A lot of people went to the doctor for everything," said Blumenberg. "Milked the cow dry."
In other Mississippi County news:
* County Clerk Junior DeLay said he will deliver the budget message at Thursday's county commission meeting.
There will be a public hearing to gather comment before the budget is approved by commissioners.
DeLay said revenues are down 10 percent for January as compared with January 2001.
* Commissioners reviewed a report from the Workforce Investment Board showing unemployment going up in Mississippi County from 8.1 percent in November 2000 to 8.5 percent in November 2001.
Blumenberg described the apparent trend as "scary."
The report also shows New Madrid County's unemployment rate rose from 4.8 percent to 6.8 percent and Scott County's went up to 5.7 percent from 3.9 percent the previous year.
* Lucas discussed progress on the new Fred's store under construction in East Prairie.
The electrical transformer was brought in Thursday and things are still on track for a March 1 opening, according to Lucas.
* Commissioners briefly discussed the half-cent sales tax placed on the ballot for the April election by the East Prairie Park Board.
Officials would like to reopen the swimming pool and add lighting for the ballfields at the new recreational center, according to commissioners. "They're going to have to have some money somewhere," said Blumenberg.