CLEARFIELD – In a phone interview with GantDaily.com Wednesday, Clearfield County’s labor counsel Richard D. Miller of Campbell, Durrant, Beatty, Palombo & Miller, P.C. refuted the claims that the county has been spending in excess for its employee health insurance coverage.
Miller said generally, he doesn’t believe in negotiating matters through the press. At the same time, he said the letter written by union representative James A. Dugan for the Clearfield County Association of Professional Employees (probation officers) was a “misrepresentation,” and the county disagrees with his position and accusations.
On Sept. 30, Dugan addressed a letter to Marianne Sankey, human resource coordinator for Clearfield County, regarding the impartial arbitrator’s decision in the Matter of Interest Arbitration between the CCAPE and Clearfield County.
According to the decision, he said the county is to coordinate the request, receipt and evaluation of proposals for alternative health insurance coverage. Additionally, he said the county will establish a committee and offer participation to one person from each county bargaining unit, providing they will be selected by the bargaining unit in question.
The arbitrator’s decision, according to Dugan, stated the final discretion to deny change in coverage rests with the county. However, he said the county has “demonstrated its inability” to control the dramatic rise in health care coverage for employees and wants them to submit to the arbitrator’s decision.
During the collective bargaining and arbitration process, Dugan said it was discovered that in 2011, Clearfield County is paying almost $30,000 per year per covered employee for family healthcare coverage. He said this amount is almost double the national average and is more than $10,000 more than what the Clearfield Area School District is paying for its employees.
Miller, however, said the high costs associated with the county’s employee healthcare program aren’t attributable to any inaction by the board of commissioners.
“It couldn’t be any more further from the truth,” he said, indicating the high costs, for most part with insurance, are driven by the healthcare claims. In addition, he said the idea to solicit alternative proposals originated from the county and was also strongly encouraged.
Miller said they sought for the development of a system that would better inform employees and provide them with more information about what is driving the high healthcare costs. He said on the committee to be formed, each county employee unit will have representation if they choose to participate on it.
He said the committee will not only hear presentations from the county’s current healthcare program carrier, but also from any alternative carrier that submits proposals.
“They’re going to hear from them first-hand,” Miller said. “This was the desire and pushed for by the county. It was an idea that we, in fact, developed.”
When asked at Tuesday’s workshop meeting if the commissioners would issue a response to Dugan’s letter, board chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen said the commissioners couldn’t comment at the present time, as it would be a violation of their contract negotiations.
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