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May 7, 2009 - 7:44pm

County's new employee health plan puts emphasis on wellness

posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, health, Jay Gsell.

Genesee County is putting together an employee health plan for the 21st Century, according to County Manager Jay Gsell.

In 1996, the county switched employees to a self-funded insurance plan, but then didn't update it for more than a decade.

Gsell said today that the old plan no longer really served employees well and hadn't kept up in changes in medicine.

"Over time, we've made little changes here and there and most of them are subtle, but now we're here in the 21st Century," Gsell said. "That old plan is not very responsive to the health care needs of people here in 2009 ... and it's not very cost effective."

The new plan has been in the works for two years, with employee unions, management and a consultant participating in putting together the new plan, which even though it was implemented in January is still a work in progress.

The new plan puts a greater emphasis on wellness, well being and prevention.

The plan now covers health care screenings for men and women and preventative diagnostic tests.

"Those kinds of things are in the plan to keep people from getting really sick or avoiding visiting a doctor's office until they have to go to the emergency room," Gsell said.

Still under consideration is coverage for gym memberships.

The committee is also reviewing prescription benefits, such as allowing employees to bulk order medicines through mail order and allowing over-the-counter remedies where patents have expired and a script is no longer necessary.

The main goal of the changes is to be cost neutral, Gsell said, but over the next five or more years, the county could save from $100,000 to $200,000.

"So what we're looking at is whether this plan over the next five years will help us better provide for our employees, but also save us money."

So far, not all employees have opted into the program, but Gsell expects more workers to see the benefits of the plan.

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