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County to offer voluntary life insurance for employees

March 5, 2019 GMT

GERING — The Scotts Bluff County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve a recommendation to offer voluntary life insurance to full-time employees and elected officials.

Management Accountant Lisa Rien said the county currently pays for $15,000 in life insurance coverage for employees.

“This will give them the opportunity to purchase additional life insurance coverage if they chose to buy it,” Rien said.

The coverage is offered through the county’s current insurance provider, Madison National Life Insurance, and is endorsed by the Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO).

Doug Leafgreen with NACO Benefit Services was present at the meeting to help Rien present the recommendation to the board.

Rien said coverage goes up to $250,000, and can be purchased in $10,000 increments, or five times an employee’s base salary, (whichever is the lesser amount).

Employees under age 60 who opt for up to $100,000 in coverage are guaranteed to be issued a policy without a physical. Employees ages 60 to 69 are eligible for up to $10,000 in guaranteed coverage without a physical.

Rien said the rate is based on the employee’s age and the amount of coverage they elect to receive. For example, a person between ages 50 to 54 would pay 30 cents a month for every $1,000 in coverage they elect to receive, or $75 per month for the full $250,000 policy. Employees can also opt to purchase coverage for their spouses at $5,000 increments up to $50,000. Spouses are guaranteed up to $25,000 without a physical. Up to $10,000 in coverage is offered for dependents.

The commissioners opted to add an additional 3 cents per $1,000 coverage for AD&D, which would award double the amount paid out in the policy in the event of an accidental death or dismemberment.

The policy is portable, meaning if an employee leaves the county they can carry coverage for two years, at which point they will need to purchase a whole life insurance policy, Rien said.

The county currently has about 250 eligible employees, and in order for the plan to be offered, Rien said 20 percent, or about 50 employees, will need to opt in.

“It’s not a bad deal,” Board Chairman Ken Meyer said. “Fifteen thousand dollars is not a lot of life insurance anymore.”

Leafgreen said the plan offers advantages since the county is a member of NACO and already offers its basic life insurance policy through the same company, Madison National Life Insurance.

“This is a discounted program, so it’s voluntary only,” he said.

Leafgreen said that the guaranteed coverage up to a certain dollar amount is also an advantage, particularly for employees who have diabetes, high blood pressure or chronic disease and struggle to find coverage. He said there is also an additional discount for non-smokers, and that the program is offered with a payroll deduction.

“Once an employee is signed up, it takes it out of their payroll so they don’t have to worry about missing a payment or anything like that,” he said.

Leafgreen said Buffalo County recently began offering the voluntary life insurance to its employees and saw between 50 and 60 percent employee participation.

“It’s a very popular option for employees,” he said.

However, Leafgreen recommended that if the county offers the coverage, that they should make the meetings for the roll out mandatory and have employees sign an elective form if they opt in, or a waiver should they opt out.

“As far as the cost to the county, there’s really not a physical cost except for the time commitment that you would have employees attending a meeting and for setting up the payroll deduction like you do for other benefits,” he said.

Leafgreen said coverage would have an effective date of Sept. 1, and that the county would need to offer an open enrollment period. He said enrollment would be a one-time offering for current employees, and would be offered once to new hires as part of the regular benefit enrollment process. Should an employee decline the coverage, they will not be presented another opportunity to enroll.

The specific dates for the mandatory announcement meetings have not yet been set, but the open-enrollment period will last 30 days.