Garry Marchman

Commissioner Garry Marchman is seen at an April 9 work session.

Cullman County employees won’t be affected by an increase in the county’s cost for health insurance next year, but the county itself will have to dip deeper into its general fund budget to cover a steep bump in premiums.

The county commission on Tuesday agreed to the renewal of its annual stop-loss employee medical policy for the 2020 fiscal year, swallowing a jump in annual premiums from $342,751 in the current year to $586,212 — an increase of $243,461.

“You hate to see it go up that much, but we’ve got to have it,” said associate commissioner Garry Marchman in joining his fellow commissioners in approving the renewed policy.

Cullman County is one of only a few other Alabama counties and municipalities that continues to self-insure instead of participating in a group plan for catastrophic health insurance. While that can help keep costs down in years when few costly claims are filed, it also exposes the county to significant fluctuations in premium costs from year to year, should covered employees require expensive and ongoing medical treatment.

In the current year, the county already has paid out almost $7 million in medical claims. Of that amount, the county is reimbursed by Blue Cross for any cost, per employee, that exceeds the first $100,000 in payments. That cost to the county (but not to employees) will jump to $125,000 per patient in the coming year, thanks to a small number of expensive treatment cases among its employee policyholders.

County administrator Gary Teichmiller said the county currently has about 1,200 insurance contracts, including covered family members and eligible retirees, from among its roughly 500 employees. “Even one person’s treatment, if it’s expensive, can significantly affect our cost, and in our case a small handful of specific cases are what have cause the change,” he explained. “Being self insured is very hard to budget for because of the potential for those costs to change from year to year.”

In other business at its regular meeting, the commission:

Authorized chairman Kenneth Walker to sign an agreement with the Alabama Department of Youth Services for a FY 2019-2020 grant in the amount of $248,984 to fund programs in Cullman, Blount, and Jackson Counties. The Cullman County office will serve as the fiscal agent for all the administered funds.

Authorized Walker to sign an agreement with the Alabama Department of Youth Services for a FY 2019-2020 grant in the amount of $128,888 to fund programs in Lauderdale County. The Cullman County office will serve as the fiscal agent for all the administered funds.

Authorized Walker to sign a long-term detention subsidy contract with the Alabama Department of Youth Services for FY 2020.

Approved a request from Cullman County Partnership for Children, Inc. to allow the detention of juveniles from Walker County to be housed in the Cullman County Detention Facility for a period not to exceed six months.

Authorized Walker to sign Cullman County on for the North Alabama Highway Safety Agreement for the coming year, renewing a grant-funded law enforcement program that allows the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office to increase its traffic-related enforcement efforts, particularly as they pertain to driving under the influence.

Approved the $19,439 purchase of 20 new radios from Sharp Communication for the sheriff’s office, to be used in patrol vehicles.

Renewed an annual maintenance agreement with Johnston Technology to provide battery backup for the E-911 dispatch center.

Declared surplus retired security cameras formerly used near the courthouse entrance.

Reappointed Dewayne Goodwin to the E911 board for a term to last through Sept. 1, 2023.

Approved an eight-lot plat proposal for Shady Grove subdivision.

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