One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Counties Should Choose Their Own Health Care Plans

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in opposition to House Bill 1131, “State Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program – Expansion of Participating Units”, before the House Appropriations Committee on March 1, 2018.

The bill would force counties to enter into the State’s health care plan. While it is possible for counties to currently opt-in to the State health care program (Caroline County currently does), mandating all counties to do it removes local authorities’ ability to procure health benefits for the population that is unique to them. Counties should still be afforded the ability to purchase health care plans according to need, and be able to pool different groups of county employees into different groups. For some counties, it is optimal to opt-in to the State program, but for many it is not.

From MACo Testimony:

MACo supports efforts to enable cooperative purchasing models to save taxpayers money while ensuring the greatest value of employee benefits. Under existing law, counties may already opt into the State’s health care program, and Caroline County in fact does this now. Other counties pool with one another, their municipalities, and their school boards to provide health insurance benefit options at high value while minimizing and combining administrative costs.

However, requiring counties to simply use the State’s health care plan removes their ability to procure health care benefits for their unique employee groups at the best value available. Forcing county employees into health care plans originally procured for an entirely different group of personnel would likely raise, rather than lower, costs to counties. It also removes their authority to purchase options according to their needs – including being sensitive to the provider network associated with a certain region.

Bringing local government employees into the State’s plan might well prove to be a preferred option in some cases – as is the case for Caroline County. However, it could also prove to be of better value to pool county employees with other county employees, or even all public safety employees with one other, while leaving clerical and administrative workers in another pool. It could prove to be the best value not to pool at all. Counties should retain broad authority to purchase plans that make sense to them, in the appropriate purchasing pools that provide the best value.”

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.