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Hall County changes employee health benefits
Move aims to encourage use of county-run pharmacy, clinic
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• The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday morning to approve a lease agreement with the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, which the county has committed $150,000 to supporting this fiscal year.

Commissioners Craig Lutz and Scott Gibbs voted against the agreement.

Lutz said the county should not be subsidizing a private club like the Olympic venue, arguing that the funding commitment made will not be recouped in economic impact.

Lutz urged his fellow Republicans to amend the budget to scrap funding for the venue.

But Commissioner Jeff Stowe, while acknowledging that the county can’t continue to fund the venue year in and year out, argued it is a part of the county’s heritage and needs to be revamped.

Chairman Richard Mecum said the venue could help create jobs and improve the quality of life in Hall County.

“To me, this is a given,” he added.

 The board approved funding for the purchase of a new fire truck with an aerial platform to replace the one involved in a July accident that seriously injured three firefighters.

About $980,000 has been budgeted to purchase a truck manufactured by Pierce.

Another $100,000 in contingency funds was approved for the purchase of additional equipment.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday morning to implement changes to employee health care benefits in an effort to encourage workers to use the county’s new pharmacy and clinic, set to open in January.

Employees will not see any change in their overall medical premiums as the county will absorb the expected 2.9 percent increase.

“That’ll keep more money in employees’ pockets,” Human Resources Director Bill Moats said.

Commission Chairman Richard Mecum said that while it’s good to keep health care premiums unchanged for a second year, he expects the employer mandate imposed by the national Affordable Care Act to drive up costs in the coming years.

“Next year could be a problem,” he said.

Employees will not have to pay copays for visits to the county clinic. Visits to their primary doctor will remain unchanged at $20 and visits to a specialist will rise to $40.

The county will shift its pharmacy benefit manager to Cigna, which Moats said will save the county about $1.7 million over the next three years.

Copays for prescriptions purchased through the county pharmacy will be lower than retail visits.

For example, the out-of-pocket cost for a generic drug will be just $4 at the county pharmacy but will cost $20 at a retail pharmacy.

In an effort to reduce the amount of emergency room and urgent care visits by employees, the county will increase copays for these services.

The county paid out almost $1 million in claims for ER and urgent care visits in the last fiscal year.

PPO deductibles for both in-network and out-of-network visits will also increase, and dental premiums will rise 4 percent.

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