Porter County Government Center

The Porter County Government Center on Indiana Avenue in Valparaiso.

File, The Times

VALPARAISO — Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good said when he took office three years ago, county government was paying about $13 million a year for health insurance for employees and elected officials.

On Tuesday, Good, R-Center, and the other two commissioners struck a deal that reduced the annual insurance cost to $9 million and took advantage of the county's better standing to enact a more traditional plan.

"So our trajectory is going the right way," Good said.

The commissioners entered into an agreement with United Healthcare to provide health insurance coverage for one year starting April 1. Dental coverage will be provided by Delta Dental.

The change means county employees and elected officials will choose providers from a network, as opposed to the former coverage that left it up to the county and its representatives to negotiate pricing with providers, according to County Attorney Scott McClure.

The move saves the county money and will be more user-friendly for employees and elected officials, Good said. Online access to information is one of the new benefits, he said.

"We're trying to simplify it," he said.

The county has not only been saving money by revamping the plan over the past few years, but also has worked itself up to a position of having choices that were not available in the past, Good said.

"I'm very encouraged we have choices," he said.

The employees and elected officials will not see any increase in their premiums this year, McClure said.

As part of striving for greater efficiency and cost savings, Good said the commissioners are also looking at offering a clinic that would provide employees and elected officials care and certain medicines at no cost. This approach, which could involve an in-house location, in addition to sites elsewhere around the Region, would cost less than visiting doctors and generating claims, he said.

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Porter/LaPorte county reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.