Bibb commission eyes $1 million in health-care savings, sets new animal shelter hours

Bibb County commissioners Tuesday endorsed health insurance changes for retirees that could save more than $1 million for the county while providing better health care coverage.

The measure was informally recommended during committee meetings, with formal approval expected in two weeks. Commissioner Elmo Richardson said commissioners want to ensure they get the wording of the measure correct before approving it.

Some of the biggest savings could come to the county’s trust fund for retirees’ health insurance. One early estimate -- based on a different set of assumptions than what was actually approved Tuesday -- suggested cash savings of $800,000 each year. No firm numbers were available Tuesday.

By shifting senior citizens from a county-run plan at $705 per retiree per month to private supplemental insurance plans with a $388 monthly stipend, the county would also save hundreds of dollars per month per elderly retiree. With more than 100 employees in the program, the county would save about $426,000 each year, officials said.

Though the moves are somewhat arcane -- affecting which Medicare supplemental insurance is offered -- both the county and the retirees should save money, said Alison Klie, a saleswoman with Extend Health, which will run the program for Bibb County.

Chief Administrative Officer Steve Layson said retirees were nervous about the change.

“I think the bottom line is change, because they’re not going to get any less coverage. The potential is to get more coverage,” Layson said.

Among the retirees at Tuesday’s committee meeting was Jacque Avant, who retired from the civil court clerk’s office.

“I feel secure with what I have now,” she said, wondering about the future. “We just have to trust. What else can we do?”

Retirees won’t have health care premiums deducted from their pension checks after Jan. 1.

New hours for animal shelter

Commissioners voted to launch Saturday hours at the county’s animal shelter, while shortening weekday hours for the public. The shelter is now open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Under the changes, it would be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, giving the staff time to clean beginning at 8 a.m. The new hours are to begin Oct. 1.

Commissioners also punted on requests to determine euthanasia guidelines, such as whether dogs with mange should be put down.

Commissioners said they didn’t want to micromanage the operations of the shelter, and such decisions should be left to veterinarians and staff members.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.