Carter County Commission gets win-win on employee health insurance

John Thompson • Nov 18, 2019 at 9:44 PM

ELIZABETHTON — During Monday night’s session of he Carter County Commission, members  got to hear about the “win-win” situation as a result of negotiations with insurance companies.

During the past budget cycle, the commission designated Sequoyah Group of Knoxville to negotiate with group health insurance companies on behalf of the county. The results appear to have surpassed the expectations of most of the commissioners.

Kelly Geer, vice president of Sequoyah Group, gave a report to the commission on Monday. She told the commissioners that both the county and the employees saved money. She said the employees have more choices and the lower costs for family coverage mean more spouses and children were brought under the county plans.

Robert Acuff, commissioner from the 1st District, worked with Geer and he received the final report of the insurance package. He said the county’s premiums for the plan are $1.5 million, but that represents a savings over last year of $250,000. Those savings were realized even though the county will be covering more people this year, thanks to more employees bringing families and spouses under the plan because they can now afford the lowered payments.

Not only are both the county and employees saving money on insurance premiums, but the sheriff’s department is able to use the good insurance package as a tool in retaining employees. For many decades, the Carter County Sheriff’s Department has seen trained deputies recruited away by neighboring departments because they could offer the deputies higher pay. But now the sheriff’s department is able to entice a deputy to stay because the county is offering better and lower-cost insurance.

The county is insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The dental plan is by Delta Dental.

In other matters, the commission once again began a discussion on the Planning Commission’s payment of a $14,466.67 bonus that had been awarded to Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler for the work he did as a project manager for the county at such places as the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter. Commissioner Patty Woodby made the motion to instruct County Attorney Josh Hardin to collect the bonus and return the funds to the county. 

When the discussion had just begun on Woodby’s motion, there was a call for a lawyer-client discussion between the commission and Hardin behind closed doors away from the public. The commission was still in the closed-door session at press time.