CROWN POINT | The Lake County Council is prepared to cancel the taxpayer-subsidized health insurance benefits for 32 attorneys now working for county government.
Councilman Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, said after a council workshop meeting Thursday this would be one of several major steps the council needs to take to repair the benefits program for the county government's 1,695 full-time employees.
County government has for decades been running a self-insurance program financed primarily with property tax revenues and a smaller amount of premiums employees pay. However, rising medical costs have been exceeding its annual $30 million budget and forcing the county to deplete its reserve fund.
Council members have warned for more than a year they must cut off health insurance granted over the years to a select number of part-time employees and consultants.
Most of the attorneys in question work for the county courts, representing indigent persons accused of juvenile or criminal violations, at a fraction of their normal salary because they and their families enjoyed the county's once-generous health coverage.
Dernulc said if the plan is approved at the council's Tuesday meeting, the health benefits will end April 1 for them as well as two attorneys who provide legal advice for the council itself.
In return, the public defenders will see their salaries rise between $5,000 and $20,000 annually.
Dernulc said they can use the additional money to buy private insurance.
He said that will result in savings to taxpayers because the attorneys and their families will no longer make any medical claims the county has to pay.
Larry Blanchard, an administrative aide to the Board of Commissioners overseeing the insurance plan's administration, said he will ask the council to increase the amount of money employees contribute to their insurance in co-pays.
Blanchard said there will be no change in the medical care offered to employees.