Medical Claims “Killing” Webb County Self-Funded Health Plan

The following article appeared in the Laredo Morning Times almost a year ago. What has the county done since to address rising health care costs? From our vantage point, essentially nothing…………………

Risk management director: Medical claims are ‘killing’ Webb County

By Julia Wallace, / Laredo Morning Times

Published 11:35 am CDT, Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Aetna, the county’s health insurance provider, projects claims will total $20.3 million, a number that does not include administrative fees, which will be about $1.5 million.

Webb County is facing financial peril due to the cost of projected health insurance claims, Interim Risk Management Director Alexandra Colessides informed Commissioners Court on Monday.

Aetna, the county’s health insurance provider, projects claims will total $20.3 million, a number that does not include administrative fees, which will be about $1.5 million. The county budgeted $13.5 million for health insurance last year.

“You all are faced with an unpleasant situation,” Colessides told Commissioners Court. “You have basically three options that you need to start looking toward. The first being you need to raise the rates. The second being you need to consider layoffs. The third being do nothing and face bankruptcy. Our medical claims are killing us.”

The county transferred $3.4 million from their general fund balance to cover costs until the end of the year. The fund has now shrunk to about $15 million, according to Webb County Judge Tano Tijerina.

“Just do the math. You keep (transferring out of the fund balance), we’re done within three years. As far as bankruptcy is concerned, people think that’s it’s a joke but it’s not,” Tijerina said.

Colessides said the county was advised that medical claims would decrease, but instead they increased about $3 million.

“The problem is we were not expecting this,” she said.

Department heads and employees complain that the county needs to be more employee-friendly and subsidize their insurance, Tijerina said.

Aetna mails letters revealing customers’ HIV status

How would you feel if your health insurance company revealed your HIV-status to those who didn’t know? This is the reality for 12,000 Aetna customers after the company mailed them letters that clearly disclosed their status in the window of the envelopes. Legal director Sally Friedman told CNN Aetna in statement 23 complaints were made and the customers are lawyering up.

But the county has already subsidized over $11 million this year, Commissioner John Galo pointed out. The county covers $517.50 of their 1,335 employees’ monthly premiums, he said, plus this year’s $3.4 million budget transfer.

Colessides said the county’s rates aren’t high enough, and raising them would be one way to deal with this huge cost. Another would be to no longer contribute to the premiums for employees’ dependents.

Galo suggested ending retirees’ coverage, which costs about $1 million annually.

“If we owe our allegiance to our employees, we need to take care of that first,” he said.

Budget Officer Lalo Uribe said he suggests the county budget $17.5 million for health insurance next year. For years the county has had to subsidize the health insurance budget through the general fund, he said.

“I understand that this is very shocking information, but quite frankly, this is a train that has derailed and we need to get back on,” Uribe said.

Julia Wallace may be reached at 956-728-2543 or