OTTAWA — It won’t fix all La Salle County’s insurance problems, but the county board did vote Thursday to eliminate a low-deductible health plan — at least for new, non-union hires.
The county board voted 22-4 to change its health coverage for employees outside the collective bargaining agreement hired after Aug. 1. The upshot is new hires, once eligible for deductibles as low as $250, now face deductibles of $1,500 for individuals and $3,000 for families.
“This is a huge step in the right direction,” said board chairman Jim Olson (D-Seneca), noting the change helps phase out a pay-as-you-go approach that was “just killing us.”
Four members opposed the increase. Mike Kasap (D-La Salle), David Torres (D-Oglesby) Steven Tuftie (R-Earlville) and Lou Ann Carretto (D-Ottawa) variously argued it will make county jobs less desirable and that it won’t make much of a dent unless union employees agree to increase premiums.
Olson acknowledged getting the collective bargaining agreement modified was no sure bet, but the county’s outlays are so out-of-control as to threaten the county’s credit rating.
“We need these savings and we need them immediately,” he said.
Allen Erbrederis (R-Somonauk) agreed, saying the low deductibles available to new hires were making the program as a whole “unsustainable.”
“If we don’t do these reforms now,” he warned, “we’re going to be at a point where insurance will be unaffordable for everyone.”
Separately, the board approved the following at the request the highway department:
- Approved $30,000 to improve safety at County Highway 5 and Route 23, north of Streator;
- Granted the use of $190,000 for engineering services for the proposed widening of County Highway 15 (Nate Fleming Road). County engineer Larry Kinzer said the actual widening will be a federal project to be funded later;
- Approved $203,727.82 for engineering services for the proposed replacement of the Sandy Ford bridge near Leonore. The project enters the design phase. Bid letting is targeted for 2020.