Washoe County Avoids Employee Health Care Costs Increase for 2011-12

Washoe County Commissioners approved an employee health benefit program for 2011-12 that holds employee health care costs at virtually no increase compared to the previous year. This accomplishment is significant given that employee health care coverage was estimated to increase as much as 12% over the 2010-11 year’s cost which could have resulted in an increase as much as $2.4 million. Washoe County is once again facing a budget deficit in the coming fiscal year that could be as much as $58.5 million if the Governor’s proposed budget is approved by the Legislature.

The County was able to keep employee health care constant because of increases that employees have voluntarily agreed to pay for their insurance plan deductibles and co-pays. These increases had been approved by the County’s Insurance Negotiating Committee comprised of employee association representatives and county management.

Washoe County is appreciative of employee associations’ willingness to negotiate health care coverage since this has historically been one of the fastest growing expenses, increasing between 8-12% per year. The approximate annual costs for employee health care coverage for eligible employees, dependents and retirees for the coming fiscal year will be $45.5 million. Employee associations also agreed to eliminate any retiree health benefits for employees hired after July 1, 2010. In addition to increases to their health care out-of-pocket costs, employees have also made voluntary wage and benefit concessions for the past four years in response to declining property tax and sales tax revenues.