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Route 30 project, county health insurance discussed at commissioners

By SARA KLEIN News Leader Staff Writer Published: March 2, 2017 12:00 AM

A Feb. 24 meeting of officials representing the Regional Transportation Improvement Project involving state Route 30 was one of two topics discussed at the Feb. 27 meeting of Carroll County's board of commissioners.

Board Vice President Robert Wirkner presented an overview of the RTIP meeting, which featured the election of a governing board as well as discussion about possible financing options for the highway project.

Launched in January of 2016 by State Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), the Regional Transportation Improvement Project involves officials from Stark, Carroll and Columbiana counties who are seeking upgrades to state Route 30 as well as increased access to the highway from surrounding counties.

Included in the proposal is the recommendation to build a four-lane connector highway from Carrollton to a proposed new portion of S.R. 30.

The RTIP proposal estimates that a 30-year term will be needed to move the project from its planning stages to the completion of construction.

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Wirkner, who was elected vice-chair of the RTIP's board at the Feb. 24 meeting, said Schuring is working to complete legislation that would establish a regional tax incentive financing agreement, which was proposed at the meeting as a way to help raise funds for the project.

An RTIF would enable the three counties involved in the RTIP to use a percentage of property taxes from new commercial developments within their borders for the highway project while allowing the remainder of those taxes to support school districts, related organizations and county infrastructure.

Funds for the RTIP would be pooled and shared by the three counties.

Wirkner said legislation for the RTIF will allow each county in the RTIP to determine what percentage of taxes it wishes to set aside for the project. School districts and other county bodies that rely on property taxes would be part of the process to determine those percentages.

Wirkner noted that the RTIP also plans to seek funding from private investors.

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The aim, he said, would be to raise funds that could be used for local matches required to secure grant funding that would move the project forward.

He reminded that, according to the RTIP's cooperative agreement signed in January last year, if a county pulls out of the project, funds that it has contributed to the project will be returned to it.

The bulk of the commissioners' Feb. 27 meeting was devoted to a year-end report about Carroll County's health insurance for its employees.

The county spent $2 million on the medical portion of its employee insurance in 2016 versus $1.7 million the year before, according to Wendy Dillingham, who represents the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio.

Dillingham said the county spent an average of $276.13 in medical costs on each of the county's 628 employees enrolled in the plan. The majority of employees, 66 percent, spent less than $2,500 on medical expenses during the year.

Dillingham noted that, of the counties CEBCO covers, Carroll has the largest number of employees who have elected coverage for themselves and their spouses. Most of these employees are between age 46 and 52, an age group that Dillingham said tends to consist of "empty-nesters" who are not seeking coverage for their children.

Carroll also posted the highest use of non-network medical care, which Dillingham said resulted from employees' use of Aultman Hospital services and physicians.

Of the top 10 medical groups that received the most insurance payments related to employees' health care, University Hospitals Medical Group, of Cleveland, was number one on the list followed by Family Medicine of Carrollton and Mercy Hospital. Aultman Hospital was number six on the list.

One issue for discussion involved the number of emergency room visits in 2016. Dillingham said an analysis by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield shows that the county paid for 140 ER visits last year, but 58 of those might have been avoidable or better served in a different location.

Dillingham stated that the average cost of an emergency room visit was $720, whereas urgent care visits would have typically cost about $100 and physician office visits would have cost under $100.

Employees aged 20 to 29 accounted for much less of the county's medical insurance costs with 116 individuals in this age group who did not visit a physician at all in 2016, even though the county's coverage pays entirely for employees' preventative care visits.

Prescription drug coverage was another topic of discussion based on statistics that show the county paid 98 percent of drug costs for its employees last year, which Dillingham said is above average for county medical plans.

"It means your benefit is very generous for employees for prescription drugs," she stated.

Of the county's total drug costs, nearly 50 percent came from prescriptions for employees in their late 50s.

Much of the cost came from mail-order prescriptions, which enable employees to receive a 90-day supply of medication for a flat fee based on whether the medication is generic or name brand.

The county's insurance also allows employees to purchase medication in pharmacies, but Dillingham said the option is not as popular in part because employees must then pay a percentage co-pay versus a flat fee.

Dillingham recommended that the county consider increasing employees' fees for mail-order prescriptions in an effort to control costs next year.

"We don't feel now that mail-order is the most cost-effective way for people to get their medications," she said.

Dillingham noted that some of the county's 2016 statistics were affected by a few unusually large claims.

In other business at meetings of Feb. 27 and Feb. 23, the board:

HEARD the County Dog Pound report for Feb. 19 25: eight dogs impounded, four adopted, five redeemed, none euthanized, no citations for no license and one citation for running at large.

The dog pound report for Feb. 12 18 showed seven dogs impounded, three adopted, four redeemed, none euthanized, two citations for no license and no citations for running at large.

TABLED the acceptance of bids for the county's septic repair and replacement program, which is funded by the state-awarded Water Pollution Control Loan Fund. Bids were received from Kugler Excavating, of Carrollton, for $37,000, and Dayton Excavating, of Salineville, for $30,410. The board said it would select bids later this week.

APPROVED the reallocation of funds collected from domestic violence court cases. Funds had been allocated to Caritas House in November of last year, but the shelter closed in December. Funds were reallocated with 50 percent going to Harbor House, based in New Philadelphia, and 50 percent to Alliance Shelter per the recommendation of Karen Taff, director of the county's victims assistance program.


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