Nov. 14— For the first time in ten years, the monthly contribution for county employees will increase as a result of a move by the Lake County Council to raise employee health insurance payments. The program is one of two that affects employee benefits and raises employee costs. The hikes were deemed overdue and necessary to maintain the plans’ financial stability.
A second plan would increase contributions for county employees and police pension fund members by, for the first time in 40 years, revising the mortality table figure used to compute contributions. Employee insurance prices haven’t changed in ten years, according to D-Hammond councilman Dave Hamm.
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Hamm noted that although a greater rise had been suggested, “we have elected to cut it down.” According to council consultant Larry Blanchard, the modification will increase the premium rate for a retired worker under the age of 65 from $200 to $240 per month. The single premium will increase from $125 to $150.
The group has fought over the years to maintain the greatest health care with the fewest out-of-pocket costs for employees, according to Council President Ted Bilski, a Democrat from Hobart. Even with the rise in premium expenses, he claimed, the insurance is still considerably less expensive than the neighborhood average.
He claimed that even if it might appear that the council gave workers a wage increase of 5% in 2023 only to shoulder higher insurance costs, they will still come out ahead. Even with the premium rise, the wage gain is still significant, according to Bilski. “We are attempting to take the best action we can to maintain the plan’s financial stability and offer the finest healthcare we can to everyone.”
Since lower-paid employees will be the ones most negatively impacted by the increase in insurance premiums, the council may need to consider reducing compensation at the lower end of the pay scale in its workforce in 2023, according to Bilski.
The mortality table for the police pension plan needs to be updated, according to Merrillville, Indiana-based corporate benefits expert Dilts & Associates’ Christopher Dilts, because life expectancy has increased since the plan’s inception and the funding doesn’t take this into consideration. He said that with each approved pay rise over the years, contributions should have likewise been adjusted.
According to him, the plan is more than 40 years old and was implemented in the 1980s. It ought to have been updated progressively over time, which would have led to steadily rising payments. Dilts claimed that every other pension utilizes the most recent table that the federal government has approved. The county must try to put the existing table into practice.
The sheriff’s office and the pension committee have been actively monitoring the pension benefits, costs, and investments, according to a report written for the council. The county’s pension contribution has decreased in actual cash between 2015 and 2023, in addition to not increase in accordance with pay increases, the report states.
According to the study, the contributions for 2022 and 2023 are more than $400,000 less than those for 2017 and almost $300,000 fewer than those for 2015. He claimed that now since the rate must be hiked, they are attempting to determine how to do so in a way that is as cost-neutral as feasible. It is suggested to combine the new mortality table with a higher interest rate. The council will discuss the proposals at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.