ELIZABETH, NJ—Citing a combination of increasing efficiency in the way employees are utilizing their healthcare benefits and greater network discounts offered through the County’s healthcare vendor, the Union County Freeholder Board voted to renew its contract with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey to provide the County of Union with health and prescription coverage at a savings of $2.2 million
The renewal begins on July 1st this year and runs for a year, and is approximately a 4.1 percent decrease over the previous contract year. The reduction is a budgetary savings for the County, and a savings for employees in their premium cost. It also bucks the trend of increasing healthcare costs over the past decade.
“This is great news and is a win-win situation for our budget and for our employees who will pay less,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “Our renewal negotiations have paid off, and our provider has stepped forward to the plate with a good deal for Union County.”
Administrative Services Director Matt Di Rado noted the County has worked with its employees and Unions in a number of areas to economize on its healthcare costs and implement wellness programs. Some of the steps include:
- A week-long wellness fair held at different locations for all County employees;
- The creation of an Executive Wellness Committee that communicates health topics/programs between management, Union representatives, employees, the healthcare contractor and administrators;
- The creation of a popular Weight Watchers program;
- The distribution of newsletters and Countywide employee emails on wellness matters and health care tips;
Additionally, Di Rado noted that in 2013, Summit Medical Group—one of the County’s largest employers—joined the Horizon network, which has had a positive impact on claims. In other areas, costs are also being driven down as the County encourages employees to utilize both generic drugs and filling prescriptions through the mail. Contracts are also being negotiated with bargaining units to provide concessions to drive more employees in network, which will continue to save costs in the future, he added.
A recent article in the New York Times (“Slowdown in Health Costs’ Rise May Last as Economy Revives” May 6, 2013) stated major new studies from researchers at Harvard University, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and elsewhere have concurred that healthcare costs are beginning to slow down, and at least some of the slowdown is unrelated to the past recession, and might persist as the economy recovers. The article also noted that there could be some variability as provisions from the Affordable Care Act continue to kick in.