MALONE — Franklin County is paying some employees to stay off its health-insurance plan, even though they were not being covered by it in the first place.
But officials say it costs less to give people the bonuses instead of ongoing medical coverage.
To save money on health-insurance costs while formulating the 2012 budget, the county offered to pay an opt-out fee of $2,000 to those with individual coverage and a $4,000 fee to those with the family plan.
As long as they dropped county coverage for 2012, proved they had other insurance to rely on and remained a county employee the entire year, they would get their bonus check this coming December.
The county expects to pay out $158,000 in a few months, but County Manager Thomas Leitz said the savings will be three to four times that because those 50 people were not covered on the county’s plan.
The exact savings will not be calculated until December when the coverage period ends, but the county pays 90 percent of an employee’s annual health-insurance premium — $7,310 for an individual and $20,621 for a family-plan recipient, said County Personnel Director Paul Duffee.
The employee pays the other 10 percent.
But he said the county is paying some individuals, “not the majority,” to stay off its plan even though they were never signed up for it before.
Non-covered employees could “feel slighted” that a coworker is getting a $2,000 or $4,000 bonus for not participating, yet they are getting nothing, Duffee said, though he doesn’t believe that anyone has expressed that opinion.
The non-covered person could decide to seek coverage under the county’s plan.
“So it’s cheaper to keep them off the books and let their other plan pick up their expenses,” he said.
Legislator Timothy Burpoe (D-Saranac Lake), chairman of the County Legislature’s Finance Committee, said the county, by law, must offer the opt out to all employees, even if some aren’t seeking coverage.
“We don’t have to have a buyout every year, but we reserve the right to do one when it’s beneficial to us,” he said.
“Somebody will take the buyout for the $2,000, but they also have to roll the die that we may not do a buyout,” Burpoe said.
“It’s the crazy system we have to work under, but we are better off paying people to opt out.”
The option to drop health-insurance coverage in 2013 will be offered in December and again next June.
Email Denise A. Raymo: email@example.com