Evans defends participation in county insurance plan

2012-06-06T19:15:00Z 2012-06-07T14:27:13Z Evans defends participation in county insurance planBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | Porter County Commissioner John Evans, R-North, is challenging calls for him and other members of the Board of Commissioners and County Council to drop out of the county health insurance plan because they only work part time.

Evans argued during this week's meeting that neither federal nor state law, nor county policy classify the commissioners as part-time employees and thus ineligible for insurance coverage under local rules.

"I work more than enough hours to exceed the part-time status, and am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," he said in a prepared statement. "Under the county's employee policies, that is a full-time job."

County Councilman Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, proposed an ordinance in February that would cut off funding next year for health insurance for the council and commissioners.

Half of the 10 members of the council and commissioners were receiving the benefits earlier this year.

While the proposal stalled after the commissioners argued they have the sole authority to amend the plan, the idea was revived in a recent newspaper column by County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who recently lost his bid to unseat Evans.

Biggs said Wednesday the council members and commissioners are clearly part time and should no longer be eligible for coverage as part of a wider effort to reduce costs of the self-funded plan.

Evans acknowledged the challenge the county faces in financing health insurance, but said the dollar, claim and membership figures touted by Biggs are not accurate.

Biggs said he has used the figures provided to the council by the plan's servicing agent.

Biggs said the council will exercise its powers to rein in costs by setting aside a designated amount of money for insurance coverage next year. It then will be up to the commissioners to make any changes necessary to keep the plan within budget, he said.

Evans said he and the other commissioners have taken steps to reduce the insurance costs, including arranging for discount pricing with some of the largest health care providers and capping the county's liability at $125,000 per participant.

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