County insurance costs soar

ELIZABETHTOWN Essex County officials winced as they heard more unwelcome news in regards to health insurance plans. At the personnel committee meeting Oct. 15, Personnel Director Daniel Palmer informed the board rates would increase by more than had previously been expected. New York State has approved a dual rate for Community Blue insurance, which allows the company to charge an additional 8 percent increase to North Country communities versus the rest of the state. Counties affected include Clinton, Franklin and Essex. We had anticipated a 16 percent rate increase what we're looking at is 24, said Palmer. Palmer explained insurance companies claimed to be losing money in the North Country region and needed the additional costs. Official rates for 2008 have yet to be announced. The dual rate will affect the county government, which currently offers Community Blue plans as an option for its employees. Palmer said the county is looking into other options, including Excellus. What we're trying to do is look at as many options as we can. The problem for us on the county level they want the whole group, said Palmer. Palmer did not favor having one plan for all county employees, since it would limit choices for county personnel. Some employees want to choose less expensive plans. Palmer explained that health insurance is used differently in the North Country than in other areas of the state. He explained people have a tendency to seek health care through emergency rooms rather than visit their primary doctors when an illness came up. They do that because they can go into the E.R., and be out in 15 minutes, said Palmer. Several supervisors, including Randy Douglas of Jay, Gerald Morrow of Chesterfield and Cathy Moses of Schroon, advocated getting Excellus involved. Excellus currently provides coverage for many local townships. Supervisor Anthony Glebus of Lewis was vehement in his disgust for the insurance companies, wondering where the money is going. He compared the health insurance industry to the oil industry, calling it a big rip-off. Supervisor Ronald Jackson of Essex was cynical about the price increase, wondering if any of the increase would be seen in additional reimbursements to doctors and medical personnel. The North Country has an ongoing problem with retention of medical personnel due to high operating costs and low reimbursements. Supervisor Jeanne Ashworth of Wilmington shared Jacksons concern for the health crisis. There is a problem here, it's a huge problem, and it's time for us to talk to our legislators, said Ashworth. We're not going to have any services. Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava of Moriah said that health insurance prices are a nation-wide crisis. Its a vicious cycle were going through here, and quite frankly, I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel, said Scozzafava. Ashworth proposed a resolution to encourage the state and federal governments to address the health care crisis. The resolution passed unanimously.

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