County touts healthcare savings

Gardner did a cost comparison of the top 10 purchased prescription drugs in county healthcare for the third quarter in 2009 between Canadian drug program prices and United States drug prices, which showed a difference of $1,956.42 more for U.S. drug prices. The costs of those 10 drugs also were 107 percent higher than the Canadian drug program prices. Another way the county has looked to save money on prescription drugs is through mail orders, which have increased from less than 1 percent to 60 percent since 2004.

Some local municipalities have had difficulties negotiating with unions, but Gardner said the county has been able to make progress with unions by explaining why changes were necessary.

"We are going to try to lead the way in health insurance reform and it hasn't been at the expense of the quality of the health care that we still have," he said. "We have worked at it in a cooperative fashion with our unions and it truly has been a partnership with our unions. We found that it is more useful to try to explain the reasoning behind things and why it is in their interest to participate in some of these reforms and a lot of time the unions have good ideas that are incorporated into the plans themselves."

Focusing on wellness is an area the county invests into for long-term savings. Every county employee is given a $400 credit towards a YMCA membership, which has over 300 participants. Another option for those wanting to use their own gym is $240 net bonus if they make 100 or more gym visits to non-YMCA facilities.

"It reduces the likely hold of having those major cost drivers," said Gardner about the wellness aspect.

The county is trying isn't to hide its methods either, he said, because implementing these across the county and the sate will help lower expenses for everyone.

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