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Health insurance waiver program continues to grow

A bonus waiver of health insurance program will save county taxpayers $825,000 in 2008 and county officials said the program, which has grown dramatically since its inception in 2005, is also saving county employees from paying too much for their health plans.

Under the program, any county employee who can provide proof of health insurance from a non-county source can receive a bonus waiver of $4,000 for waiving family coverage and $2,000 for waiving individual coverage.

County Attorney Chris Gardner said 75 employees are participating in the program this year and that nearly all of them have been waiving family coverage.

Employees have to fill out a form and provide proof that they have insurance from another source, said Gardner, who stressed that the program does not intend for people to waive their county health care entirely. He said the program provides savings for people who are doubly covered by a spouse, family member or other source.

The 75 employees who receive the waiver account for the $825,000 in county savings, a $264,000 increase in savings from last year when 51 employees participated in the program.

Gardner said that a family health insurance plan costs the county approximately $15,000, with each waiver of family coverage representing an $11,000 savings.

Chair of the Schenectady County Legislature Susan Savage, D-Niskayuna, said she thought that cooperation with the county's major unions led to the increase in savings.

"The county has worked cooperatively with our three unions " CSEA, SEIU and Council 82 to cut the cost of health insurance while maintaining competitive health insurance benefits," said Savage.

When the county negotiated a new contract in 2004, it included the bonus waiver. Contracts with SEIU and Council 82 in 2005 contained identical programs. The waiver program took effect in January 2005. In 2005, only 19 employees participated in the plan, but the program has seen steady growth each year. In total, the county has saved more than $2 million by providing these waivers.

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