Insurance plan for Camden County employees renewed despite concerns

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Camden County Courthouse.

Camden County renewed their current county insurance plan on Tuesday for another three years. While this means free insurance for county workers, some outside consulting is concerned as to whether or not this was the best choice.

The county’s insurance consultant was present at the commission meeting where the renewal was up for discussion. He said at the meeting that the county had started working with Mutual Medical six years ago and came into an agreement on a partially self-funded plan. Instead of sending money to an insurance company, the county keeps money spent on employee insurance in their own account and spends it when needed. This results in free medical insurance to every employee, according to Second District Commissioner Don Williams. 

Williams says that, when they looked into other plans, county employees would have had to contribute a substantial amount toward their own insurance. Williams did not provide a specific amount. 

During the meeting, two county employees gave their opinions on the matter. Sheriff Tony Helms gave testimony in favor of the insurance, stating that he only had to pay $2,000 for the entirety of the work he had done to install a prosthetic leg. He said that, with zero deductible and zero out-of-pocket, the procedure would have “devastated” his family. 

Helms went on to say that he originally had to be talked into using the county insurance plan, as he was skeptical of its legitimacy. Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty responded, saying that the commissioners had talked to the department of labor on this issue.

“They said that the way that the federal law is structured, this is the way it works. And if this insurance company has the ability to work within the scope of the federal law, that is an advantage to us,” Hasty said. 

Twenty-year county employee Byron Willis expressed his opinion on the plan as well, but in a much more negative light. He claimed that he went to a Springfield hospital for chest pain. After receiving a stress test and being sent home, he says he received a bill for over $7,000. Cox South, where he went for the test, was out of network and Willis says that he was told after the fact that he should have gone to Mercy for the test. The county insurance consultant says that the actual issue was Willis leaving the hospital against medical advice. 

With multiple opinions laid out, Hasty moved quickly to a vote by the commission to renew the insurance plan for 3 additional years, to the end of 2024. The vote was approved by Williams and Hasty. First District Commissioner James Gohagan did not submit a vote on the issue.

Gohagan says that the reason he did not vote was simply that he had more questions about the plan that he felt had not been answered. 

Williams says that the lack of a unanimous vote was not necessarily concerning, as “various people will have different opinions and each opinion can be valid.” Williams went on to say that since he joined the commission, the county has remained with the current plan because “we have not been presented with an alternate plan that would not either (1) cost the taxpayers more, or (2) cost the employees more for the same coverage.”

Hasty did not respond to questions on the subject.