While spouses are still eligible for benefits, employees must now show a marriage certificate and a signed income tax return from the most recent year. County spokesman Robert Quigley said spouses’ social security numbers and other personal information can be marked out to maintain privacy.
For dependent children or stepchildren, employees now have to provide a birth certificate, legal guardianship final decree, legal custody decree or final adoption decree.
The changes are among several the county is implementing, including a surcharge for tobacco users of around of $50 a month and a fee of $100 a month for employees who claim a spouse on their coverage who works for a company that provides coverage.
“All of these are cost-control measures,” county Human Resources Director Tony Hagler said. “We’re looking at ways to keep our costs in line.”
So far, the spousal surcharge has brought in an additional $300,000 for the county, Hagler said.
Quigley said the county has had four incidents in the past five years of employees claiming someone as a dependent who didn’t meet qualifications.
“It happens more frequently in the private sector, and now it is starting to happen more in the public sector,” he said.
The county is using LaGrange-based Houze & Associates to provide employee education on the changes, as well as enrollment and administration services.
Quigley said Houze doesn’t charge the county, but the company makes a commission on insurance policies sold.
On Wednesday, the last day for enrollment in the county’s health plan for 2012, Hagler said all but about 400 eligible employees had signed up for benefits, which is on par with previous years.
“Some people have struggled with producing documents,” he said. “Most everybody has done what they need to do.”
County Manager David Hankerson said the changes were made because of rising health care costs, which have gone up between 10 and 12 percent a year. He is hopeful that the changes will keep employee costs stable for 2012.
“We tried to implement the changes to try to keep it at the (20)11 levels,” he said. “We won’t know until the end of the year, but we think it will.”
Hankerson said the county has been looking at ways to control insurance costs for years, and passed this idea by the county’s Citizen Oversight Committee before implementing it.
Hankerson said he hasn’t heard negative comments about the plans from anyone.
“I think there’s been concern,” he said. “I don’t think the numbers (of complaints) have been as great as people thought they’d be.”