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King County JLMIC Update: Remember Open Enrollment!

Open enrollment for Teamsters at King County is November 1-15.

healthcare.jpgWhen you enroll, you will see that (at a time when most private and public sector employers are eroding health and welfare plan benefits as a way of shifting the cost to employees), King County plans will expand and improve benefits!

Effective January 1, 2016, your plan will provide 100% coverage for an extensive list of preventative care benefits and 100% coverage for contraceptives.

The Affordable Care Act did not require these improvements because King County’s plans have grandfathered status. Despite that, and the significant cost associated with providing these benefits (approximately $500,000 per year), the JLMIC was convinced that this was money well spent.

This is because preventative care is widely viewed by experts as a best practice from a plan design perspective.

The cost of these plan improvements pose no jeopardy or threat to the financial stability of the Protected Fund Reserve which is officially at $34.2 million as of the end of 2014, up over $9 million from the original seed of $25 million. 

In addition, the trend keeps improving, and the consultants at Mercer are now predicting that the Protected Fund Reserve will exceed $38 million at the end of this year, and $42.5 million by December 31, 2016. 

As reported previously, this means: no premium share, and no changes to the important plan provisions such as co-payments, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums at least through the end of 2016.

Benefit Access Fee Increase

Last year, we increased the Benefit Access Fee from $50 to $75.  This led to an increase to the PFR of nearly $500,000 and it had no negative effect on enrollment (in fact, the number of employees paying the benefit access fee increased). 

It is clear that we have not yet found the correct costing point for this benefit access fee as employed spouses still view it as a bargain.  Accordingly, for 2016 you will see that we are increasing the Spousal Benefit Access fee from $75 per month to $100 per month for King Care. 

This is important to avoid plan shopping whereby the County essentially subsidizes the deficient medical plans offered by less progressive employers.  In addition, even with this increase the employer/employee cost-share percentage at King County remains far below the average. 

ATU Plan Changes And Possible Merger.

The ATU fund has substantially eroded during this cycle, so they are making plan changes including increases to King Care deductibles, out of pocket maximum, prescription drug co-pays and the spousal benefit access fee to $125. 

Even with these changes, their fund should end 2016 at about $5 million, down from their original seed of $10 million.  Over the next few months we will be exploring whether it is possible for the ATU group to return to be a part of the larger JLMIC group without jeopardizing the gains we have achieved.  I will write a full report on this  next time.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about this report, please feel free to contact me as your JLMIC Co-Chair.


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