Legislators OK co-payment increase

Mary Perham

Steuben County legislators could see a 10 percent increase in their health insurance co-payments next year.

The increase in co-pay was hammered out Tuesday by the county Legislature’s Administration Committee, after debating three different proposals which included salary decreases, salary increases, and a 100-percent co-payment for family coverage.

The most stringent of the proposals came from Legislator Scott Van Etten, R-Caton who suggested a 3 percent reduction in legislators’ salaries, currently set at $11,500. Van Etten recommended legislators opting for family coverage pay the entire cost over and above the single coverage expense. Single coverage co-pays would remain at 10 percent, under Van Etten’s plan.

Legislator Gary Roush, R-Erwin wanted all legislators to get a pay boost of $3,500 up to $15,000 in January, with legislators paying the total cost of their health insurance. Roush said his plan would ensure the lawmakers receive equal benefits.

But committee members said the public would not stand for a legislative pay hike and questioned whether an immediate jump in co-payments would be too much.

“I just think it would be huge hit for those with families,” said Legislator Carol Ferratella, R-Riverside.

Ferratella’s plan originally called for a gradual 5 percent increase in co-pays for four years, but was later upped to 10 percent.

The committee has been considering changes in their health coverage which was expected to take effect in four years, after all legislators had had a chance to run under the new benefits plan.

However, county Attorney Alan Reed said the benefits could be approved for the next term, which begins in January 2012.

The issue may come up again, as the county looks at other changes to the Legislature next year, based on the 2010 U.S. Census. Districts are expected to be realigned, and some legislative seats may be eliminated, officials said.

The committee has debated changes to their health insurance co-pays for the past several months, at Roush’s request.

Roush said his primary concern was the insurance plan meant some legislators received more financial benefits than others. He also objected to the $25,000 the salary and benefits package legislators could receive.

While most legislators did not object to adjustments in benefits, they pointed out Steuben’s salaries and co-pays are comparable to similar counties.

Steuben is self-insured, which means the county does not pay a premium, county Administrator Mark Alger said.

“If you sign up, and there’s no claims, there is not cost to the county,” Alger said.

The full Legislature will vote on the health insurance payments when it meets at 10 a.m. June 27.

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