The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Finance committee recommends retiree health care change


June 19, 2020


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Hurley — The Iron County Board of Supervisors Finance Committee is hoping a change to the county’s employee handbook will save the county some money as it voted Thursday to recommend the full board consider changing the policy regarding retiree health care.

Under the current policy, county employees can choose to pay to stay on the county’s health insurance policy after they retire until they become eligible for Medicare.

The committee is recommending the policy be changed so that employees would need to acquire different insurance after their retirement.

Iron County Clerk Mike Saari said the reason for the change is to avoid paying a company to run a report on the county’s retiree health care liability, which has gradually increased in cost from $5,000 every three years to $13,000 every two years.

“All this is, it’s one figure that says it’s a liability to the county that has to go on our audit report,” Saari said.

“Two years ago, it was $13,000 for one figure that our auditor (says) we don’t need,” he continued. “I do all the work, get them all the figures about every employee … they just (put) it all in a spreadsheet that goes directly into a program and it spits out a figure for this report, and they charge you $13,000.”

The county’s auditor didn’t feel the report was even necessary as the county isn’t paying for the retirees’ insurance and therefore doesn’t have a liability, according to Saari, but the company argued the increased premiums due to having older people on the policy increased the overall premium the county was paying.

Saari said regardless of whether the auditor felt the county had an actual liability, they couldn’t forgo the report without the company’s approval, which is why the change to the employee handbook is necessary.

Currently, there are only two retirees on the county policy, according to Saari, and they won’t be affected as the change isn’t retroactive.

He said as it’s often cheaper for retired employees to get health care elsewhere anyway, it’s unlikely anyone will be negatively impacted in the future either.

In other action:

—The committee declined to take any action on a requested resolution expressing the county’s opposition to the potential relocation of problem wolves. No wolves have been relocated to Iron County and there aren’t necessarily plans to, but Saari said a Tomahawk, Wisconsin, woman requested the county consider the measure. Although several committee members opposed the idea of bringing problem wolves into the county, they didn’t feel the issue needed formal action and that a resolution wouldn’t deter the Department of Natural Resources anyway so it wasn’t worth the effort.

—The committee also agreed that county officials should interview all three applicants for a part-time, contracted maintenance position with the county.

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