La Crosse County employees will pay 2 percent more of their health insurance premiums in 2016, the first such increase in five years.
The county will shift to paying 88 percent of the premium, while employees will pay 12 percent, the same split as the state. The monthly premium starting in January will be $735 for single coverage and $1,800 for family.
That means single coverage will cost $44.10 per paycheck, family coverage $108, compared with about $36 and $88 this year, county officials said.
The county, which is self-insured, had been able to keep premiums level until now in part by setting higher deductibles, which in 2015 rose to $1,250 for a single person and $2,500 for family care within network, county Administrator Steve O’Malley said.
But premium costs on average in the market have gone up 6.5 percent during that time, O’Malley said, making it unsustainable without a rate increase even with adjustments to the deductible amounts.
“All good things,” he told the La Crosse County Board on Thursday, “must end.”
County public safety employees will continue to pay 10 percent of the premium and the county 90 percent through 2016, as part of its bargained benefits, O’Malley said.
Three board supervisors insured through the county plan will continue to receive coverage through April 2016 paying 55 percent of the premium, but that must stop after the current term ends, O’Malley said. The Affordable Care Act stipulates the county must make insurance available to all part-time employees — classified as those working less than 30 hours a week — or none.
While the county will pay $3,969 to extend those benefits through April, it only seemed fair not to remove something that was in place when the supervisors came into office, O’Malley said.
Supervisor Brian Logue’s amendment to require supervisors pay the entire premium failed on a 7-12 vote, with Laurence Berg, Ray Ebert, Dan Hesse, Hubert Hoffman, Dave Holtze, Robert Keil and Logue in the minority. Six board members abstained: Vicki Burke, Dan Ferries, Ralph Geary, Mike Giese, Sharon Hampson and Roger Plesha.
The measure then passed 17-1, with only Hesse opposed. Six again abstained, but this time Giese voted while Hoffman did not.
The county board also unanimously approved adding e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco-related products that can’t be used in or around La Crosse County structures.
The ordinance change prohibits all types of smoking — including “vaping” — as well as smokeless tobacco from all county buildings, vehicles, park shelters and within 20 feet of doorways on county property.
The e-cigarette devices vaporize a liquid, often laced with nicotine, so it can be inhaled like a traditional cigarette or cigar but without the smoke.
The ordinance does not bar the public from using tobacco or e-cigarettes in outdoor areas of county parks.
Under the change, county employees also cannot smoke in their personal vehicles when transporting someone on county business, such as a social worker taking a child home.