No increases to our healthcare costs We won’t pay for the county’s mistakes

by Ali Fuhrman

Hennepin County claims they need $42 million more to cover healthcare expenses in 2024. That’s a 31.5% increase!

Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay
Image by Thomas Breher from Pixabay

This increase is largely UMR’s fault. UMR is the new insurance company that handles our insurance plan. They recently signed a contract with Hennepin County and lied about the plan they could offer us.

To raise more money next year, Hennepin County wants to increase our premiums for a regular, non-deductible plan by 37% to 40%. They also want to create high-deductible plans with high co-pays. Until now we haven’t had to pay deductibles for in-network visits.

Workers who can’t afford a high monthly premium will have to select a high-deductible plan. That will hurt us on two fronts. First, we’ll have to pay more for our monthly premiums. Second, we’ll have to spend $500 to $750 of our own money before insurance will cover anything.

Here’s what this means for us:

  • It will be too expensive for workers to seek regular medical care
  • Our health and the health of our families will suffer
  • The county will save money thanks to our suffering
  • The county will use our healthcare money to cover holes in their budget instead of spending our money on our healthcare

This trick is called a “premium holiday.” We call it a healthcare raid. The county frames it as an opportunity for workers to save money because we don’t pay health insurance premiums during a premium holiday. The problem is, the county doesn’t pay either. They save money and use it to fix their own budget problems.

In 2019, after years of increases to our healthcare costs, we built a $59 million reserve for our health insurance fund. In 3 short years the county has drained $35 million from our healthcare fund and used it to cover their own budget

shortfalls. The county didn’t pay their fair share into our healthcare plan. Our health insurance is part of our total compensation. By not contributing to our health insurance fund, the county basically stopped paying us.

This is a big scam. If we pay the extra costs they’re proposing for next year, any money we save will likely be raided again.

We should not face huge healthcare cost increases. Our union sisters, brothers, and siblings at the State of Minnesota are also self-insured. Their increases in 2024 are tiny compared to ours:

State vs. county annual healthcare cost increase State of Minnesota workers Hennepin County workers
Premium increase (singles) $12 $524.16
Premium increase (families) $84 $2,576.40

To have family coverage, a Hennepin County worker making $22 an hour would spend 15% of their annual income on health insurance alone.

The county has $168 million in unspent COVID funds and maintains many millions in general cash reserves. The county made a mistake by choosing UMR for our health insurance. The county should pay for it, not the workers!

We say:

  • No healthcare cost increases for workers
  • No high-deductible plans
  • Keep our current plan for 2024
  • Hennepin County must pay for their mistake: Use county reserves and COVID funds to add $42 million to our healthcare plan
  • Get rid of UMR: Find another provider that can meet our needs for 2025

We win when we speak up! Here’s what we’ve won in past years:

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay
  • 2021: No cost increases. The proposed 4.2% increase was instead covered by reserves in the bank. Costs for members didn’t go up!
  • 2020: Money back to workers. We reduced out-of-pocket costs to members and won $400 for singles and $700 for families to use toward medical expenses.
  • 2019: No cost increases. We won the interest from our healthcare bank account. No longer will it be diverted to cover other county costs. The earned interest is now returned to our healthcare account and the plan is on track to earn around $200,000 in interest this year alone.

We can win again if we speak up! Here’s what we can do:

Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
  • Come speak at a commissioner meeting
  • Call or email your commissioner – see contact information and script below

Join us at a commissioner meeting

We’re organizing workers to speak out at Hennepin County Board meetings in August. Join us to provide testimony about the harmful effects of these increases!

  • Tuesday, August 1
  • Tuesday, August 15

We’ll meet at 12:30 PM on the main floor of the Government Center. Together we’ll go to the 24th floor meeting room for public comment at 1 PM.

Call or email your commissioner

Here’s what you can say when you call or email your commissioner:

My name is [first and last]. I’m a resident of Hennepin County [if applicable] and I’m a [job title] at [location].

I’m contacting you today because I’m concerned about the proposed healthcare increases for 2024.

  • Tell your story
  • Say UMR made a mistake and workers shouldn’t have to pay for it. No healthcare cost increases for workers in 2024. Use COVID and general reserve funds to cover the increases instead

Commissioner contact information

Find your Hennepin County Commissioner here:

Don’t live in Hennepin County? Call Commissioner Chair Irene Fernando 612-348-7882 or email: County Administrator: David Hough: 612-348-4260

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash
Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash
  • District 1: Jeffrey Lunde: 612-414-3302
  • District 2: Irene 612-348-7882
  • District 3: Marion Greene: 612-348-7883
  • District 4: Angela Conley: 612-348-7884
  • District 5: Debbie 612-348-7885
  • District 6: Chris LaTondresse: 612-348-7886
  • District 7: Kevin 612-348-7887

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