PRIMGHAR—Medicare premiums are up for O’Brien County.
On March 15, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion to increase premiums for county employees by $10 per month for individual plans and $30 per month for family plans.
The county will bear the cost of the single plan premium increases while the employees will pay for the increase in the family plans.
Of the county’s 88 health insurance plans, 17 are for single employees. This means the county will pay an additional $2,040 for the year to cover the single plan premium hike.
Employees working less than full time will continue to pay half the required premium.
The increases will take effect July 1.
The hike in health insurance premiums comes as the county is also considering wage increases for its employees to keep up with inflation.
The county’s compensation commission has recommended a 14% raise for the sheriff’s office and 8% salary increases for the attorney, auditor, recorder, supervisors, and treasurer for fiscal year 2022- 23. Supervisors have yet to approve these suggested numbers, but will approve pay rates later in March.
At the March 8 county meeting, Supervisor Dan Friedrichsen said he thought an 8% increase would be “incredibly high” when he first heard it. However, he later changed his mind after learning about the salary increases some private sector employees were receiving to meet rising cost-of-living expenses.
Having some employees cover additional bonus costs would also help offset county spending on salary increases.
In addition to approving health insurance premiums for the 2022-23 fiscal year at Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors received updated information from auditor Barb Rohwer regarding how the county can spend the funding. of the American Rescue Plan Act.
Rohwer attended the Iowa State Association of Counties Spring Conference, held March 9-11 in Des Moines. One of the topics of discussion was bailout funds and updated guidelines on how counties can use them.
“The final rule was that if you received less than $10 million — which most counties in Iowa did — you could say it was all lost revenue. You don’t have to prove it. It’s just lost revenue,” Rohwer said.
There are still restrictions on how the money can be used. For example, the following uses are prohibited:
- Put the money in a pension.
- Settlement of lawsuits.
- Pay off the debt.
Counties are also unable to allocate any of their bailout money to mental health regions, as funding for the regions recently came under state government control.
If the county chooses to view the bailout funding as a loss of revenue, Rohwer said the county would no longer need to report to the federal government on the use of the money. However, the county would still track how it uses the funding.
“Eligible expenses would be like culverts and dams, reservoirs, that sort of thing. Any government service as defined by the final rule,” Rohwer said.
Capital expenditures that cost less than $1 million would not require written justification to the federal government, but the county would still need to follow regular submission requirements.
O’Brien County received its first tranche of bailout funding — $1.3 million — in May 2021 and will receive its second allocation of the same amount this summer.
The county has already approved bailout funding requests to several county departments. It is only reviewing internal funding requests until March 31, after which it will consider requests from outside organizations eligible for the funds.