At the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ meeting on March 7, supervisors heard from officials about the need to make health service choices for county employees – should they stick to what know or try something different?
The county currently employs United HealthCare for its combined benefits, but the plan will increase 35% this year, partly due to COVID-19-related expenses and largely due to numerous claims filed over the past fiscal year.
Gray Montgomery of Combined Benefits Administrators and Richard Cothern of Gulf Guaranty Health discussed the changing landscape of healthcare costs due to the pandemic and other factors. “You had a 35 percent increase due to claims last year,” Montgomery said. “You paid $1.7 million in premiums and you received $2.5 million in claims. That’s a 145% loss ratio, because you had 55% more claims, an insured member costing $300,000 just for drug claims. »
Montgomery was there to talk about the choices supervisors had to make about health care for employees. District 1’s Jerry Wilson said abandoning dependents was not an option. “I know it’s a lot of money [paid out], but it’s someone’s loved one,” he said passionately. “If we have to pay extra, we should pay extra because without [benefits]that person is going to die.
Montgomery said he was there to show research supervisors so they know their options, not to tell them what to do and certainly not to take advantage of anyone.
“We call it ‘medical inflation’ – the costs have tripled for everyone,” he said of the astronomical costs the whole country seems to be facing. “We want to help you make an informed decision, not tell you what to do.”
Cothern offered to work with City of Montgomery and Lincoln County Administrator Daniel Calcote to bring more options to the table by moving — also called cost shifting — items here and there to allow employees county to more easily keep their families on Medicare.
“Most employees can’t pay more than they already pay! said District 4’s Eddie Brown annoyed. “They need that cover. We don’t want them to give up coverage – we have to take care of the families. We need more options.
Calcote said a simple way to cut costs is for department heads to encourage their employees to use their wellness benefits.
After a lengthy discussion between supervisors and advisors, the board decided to postpone a vote until the next meeting, which will be at 9 a.m. on March 10.
Also on Thursday, supervisors will also discuss their feelings about medical marijuana in the county. A few supervisors seemed absolutely opposed to allowing it, with others saying to let the May 2 deadline pass and what people voted for (i.e. medical marijuana) go into effect without they don’t interfere.
As things stand after the March 7 meeting, supervisors appeared ready to impose a new vote — and considerable cost — on Lincoln County voters to see if they were no or yes to allowing anything. in medical marijuana.
A majority of Mississippi voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 2020, although there were legal issues with the initiative afterward. The state’s Republican-led House and Senate passed a final version of Senate Bill 2095, and Governor Tate Reeves finally signed the legislation legalizing medical cannabis on February 2.
At the meeting, several people explained that they hoped Lincoln County supervisors would “commit” because of the drug’s many benefits for critically ill patients in the county. Jason McDonald already grows hemp in the county, and he’s not so worried about the options supervisors face.
“If you unsubscribe, we would only need 1,500 signatures to [overrule that,] so…” he said sadly. “I just hate that Lincoln County isn’t profiting at all from making and selling it – but they’re offering to sell it. I don’t care how they sell it – i am a grower and i will either grow for the people of lincoln county or sell it to neighboring counties who have already opted in. but there are people in this county who should be able to get medical marijuana when it’s prohibited, and they’ll do it – across the county line to a county that allows it in. It’s money out of the pockets of Lincoln County.
In other news, the board approved the following:
- an engagement letter with Butler Snow for the ARPA fund council, county sheets for county meals for week 21, and a school bus rotation for Alicia Gill in District 1
- an alternative supplier for HOME Grand asbestos/lead based paint testing after PPM’s withdrawal. The next closest bid was from Advanced Environmental Consultants and the project was awarded to them.
- Ministry of Revenue exemption certification allowing Rex Lumber Brookhaven LLC to qualify for tax exemption for its new pellet plant and approved inventory control sheets.
- the naming of a private road off Hutchinson Road “Whitestone Trail SE”, a constable training event, and a lease agreement with MCC MS for a new postage system that would segregate expenses among all county departments.
The board has tabled a renewal of a lease from the constituency of Norfield on the Lewis and Earl Brown property until research shows who actually owns the property and who is the person who should be paid.