Forcing County Participation in Health Care Plans is Not the Right Prescription

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick testified in opposition to Senate Bill 1016, “State Employee and Retiree Health and Welfare Benefits Program – Expansion of Participating Units”, before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on March 15, 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.”

For more on this and other legislation, follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2018 legislative session here.