Milwaukee County could end employee health plan

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has proposed ending health insurance coverage for county employees and having them buy insurance through the new health insurance exchange.

The proposal included in Abele’s 2014 budget could save an estimated $10 million per year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/15Gn7QN ). The plan would have to be approved by the county board.

“If we can get health care to a level of what they have now or better and save money — if we can do that we’d like to pursue it,” Abele, a Democrat, said Monday during a meeting with the newspaper’s editors and reporters.

The new health care law requires every state to establish an online health insurance exchange where consumers can shop for and compare plans. The federal government is running exchanges for states like Wisconsin that have opted not to develop their own. Enrollment in insurance plans offered through the exchanges begins Tuesday.

Milwaukee County employs about 4,400 people. Abele’s plan calls for ending health insurance coverage for some or all of them sometime in 2014 if further review “shows that the county can realize significant savings while ensuring access to quality and affordable health care,” he said.

Employee health insurance is expected to cost the county about $118.5 million next year. Employees will pay about $10 million toward their premiums. With deductibles and co-pays, workers end up paying about a quarter of their total health care costs.

Under the federal health care law, employers who drop health coverage will pay penalties of up to $3,000 per worker.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com

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