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Officials approve change in insurance

Friday, December 29, 2006

CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County has changed insurance plans and opted for a new agent.

The changes were approved Thursday during the Commission's last regular meeting of the year.

During a special meeting Dec. 19, commissioners had voted to renew with Anthem Blue Cross and reduce the projected increase in premiums by raising their deductible from $2,500 to $5,000.

Thursday, however, they were presented with an option they didn't know about at the time.

"Blue Cross has an alternative plan," County Clerk Junior DeLay said. "Blue Cross has what is called a 'health service account' plan -- HSA for short. The way that plan works is you select your desired deductible and it eliminates all co-pays and prescription co-pays. This is similar to the old-fashioned major medical plans."

Commissioners selected an HSA plan with a $2,650 deductible.

Under this HSA plan, the insured pays the first dollar up to the amount of the deductible, according to DeLay.

"Once the insured meets their deductible, the insurance company pays 100 percent," he said.

The insured will pay the first $1,500 of the deductible after which the county will pay the remaining $1,150, DeLay said. Previously the county paid the deductible after the first $750.

In addition to changing plans, commissioners also voted to make Charlie Tinsley of Farm Bureau Insurance in Charleston the county's new insurance agent.

"Charlie Tinsley is the first one who ever mentioned the HSA plan," DeLay said.

From the start, Tinsley was going to use the HSA approach using some of the same health insurance providers being quoted by other agents, DeLay said.

As the county was already being represented by another insurance agent, Blue Cross would not provide Tinsley with the HSA quote for the county. Tinsley advised DeLay, however, that he could call Blue Cross directly to get that quote.

Tinsley attended Thursday's meeting to answer any questions from commissioners and to explain the HSA program.

"They then decided to switch to the HSA plan," DeLay said. After switching plans, commissioners decided to make Tinsley the county's agent as the HSA idea was originally his.

The annual premium for the HSA plan is just a bit higher than the previously-

approved plan with the $5,000 deductible but officials believe the risk to the county will be lower.

"The commission likes this kind of plan anyway," DeLay. "It was mentioned there is a trend toward this type of offering and that in the next five years or so in the health insurance industry this may be the only type of plan that is offered."