WALKER -- Cass County will avoid paying up to $280,000 more annually for employee health insurance as a result of a Nov. 29 arbitrator's ruling.
Administrator Robert Yochum reported to the county board Thursday the arbitrator, William J. Berquist of Bloomington, found the county is not obligated to contribute to the supplementary insurance premiums.
Eugene Johnson, Cass County courthouse employee and an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union member, filed a grievance in an attempt to force the county to pay his private Medicare supplement insurance after he dropped membership in the county's self-insurance program in 1999.
Had the ruling found in favor of Johnson and AFSCME, the county could have been expected to pay toward private or alternate insurance plans for about 20 percent of employees who do not participate in the county plan.
The county budget committee had proposed a $233,000 contingency fund in the 2001 budget to cover such potential employee claims.
Berquist said in his ruling the county has not paid toward any insurance other than the self-insurance plan since joining the Association of Minnesota Counties Insurance trust 13 years ago.
A county board action in February 2000 to offer Teamsters and Operating Engineers union members the option of participating in the union insurance rather than the county plan stipulated a lower county contribution than the self-insurance program and that all retirees as well as active employees must be covered by any union plan.
Neither union accepted the offer because of the lower county contribution and the fact retired as well as working members had to be covered.
Berquist ruled Johnson's request for an individual policy was not comparable to the board's offer to the two union groups.
Language in the union contract relates to the potential for the county to return to a private insurance program had the self-insurance plan not worked, Berquist found. After 13 years in self-insurance, the plan appears successful, he wrote.
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