Mineral Wells Index
— By CLINT FOSTER
PALO PINTO – Palo Pinto County Commissioners are closer to deciding on a new insurance package that could provide better coverage for employees and save taxpayers a significant amount of money.
Representatives from Brinson Benefits presented multiple coverage options for health, dental, vision and life insurance and made their recommendations to the court Monday morning.
Demetra Belle-Runnels of Brinson Benefits, who made the presentation, said that their recommendations were the result of an exhaustive research process on behalf of the county.
“We did a thorough analysis after going out for a full check from all the carriers in this market, dissecting and looking at employer contributions, employee contributions and benefit plan options,” she said. “[We’re] looking at how to [create] better benefits for employees without increasing the cost to employees or the county; to create a win-win.”
Belle-Runnels added they also held meetings with representatives from almost every county department to receive their feedback as to what their insurance preferences would be.
Out of 16 presented options for health insurance, Belle-Runnels recommended that the county stay with Texas Association of Counties for their coverage. As for dental and vision, Brinson representatives suggested Ameritas, which would provide orthodontic coverage, among other things, for only a slightly higher price. Finally, Belle-Runnels told the court that she believed Mutual of Omaha would provide the best options for life insurance coverage.
Belle-Runnels added that her recommended coverage options will allow employees to provide benefits for their dependents without being penalized.
All of the suggested insurance plans will potentially lower the cost to the county while still improving employee coverage. Adding to the importance of more affordable insurance is its prominent place on the county budget. County auditor Steve Watson recently said that insurance is one of the county’s highest expenses, so any money saved will be helpful regarding the county budget, which Watson and the court have been working on all month.
“We do think we overturned every rock to find the best option for both. It’s always a delicate balance,” Belle-Runnels said.
County Judge David Nicklas said he was pleased with the many coverage options Brinson Benefits gave them.
“It’s obvious that they did a very thorough job looking at all the options available to us and presenting us with what is going to be a more viable plan and a better plan for the county and for employees of the county,” he said. “The plans that [Belle-Runnels] presented and the ones Brinson Benefits suggested are very attractive at this point, in my opinion.”
Nicklas said the court would recess so they could have more time to familiarize themselves with the various coverage options before they make a decision. The court plans to make an official decision this morning.
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