Franklin County may soon stop offering health insurance to its retired employees once they reach Medicare age.

Currently, employees who work at least 10 years for the county can continue to get the county’s health insurance plan. This also goes for their spouses.

Now the commissioners say they want to stop allowing retirees and their spouses to keep getting the county’s health insurance once they reach 65, which is the age they are eligible for Medicare.

As retirees, they pay the full premium unlike current employees who have part of their premium paid by the county. But even though the retirees pay their full premium, they can still impact the county’s insurance costs with the claims they file, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said.

The change would only affect future retirees and their spouses, not those who have already retired and are still getting the county’s health insurance.

On Monday, the county commissioners held a work session to discuss health insurance changes the county will face from the Affordable Care Act.

Part of the discussion included whether the county should keep offering health insurance to employees once they retire from the county.

Different options were presented by County Counselor Mark Vincent and Human Resources/Payroll Clerk Lisa Trentmann.

“We do have a lot of people that are counting on this retiree plan — there is no doubt,” Trentmann told the commissioners.

One option was to immediately cut off benefits once the employees leave the county, but the commissioners did not want to do that.

First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he does not want to leave the employees in a position where they have a gap in coverage from the time they retire until they are eligible for Medicare.

“The thing I don’t want to do is leave them hanging with nothing,” Brinker said.

Griesheimer said there is no problem allowing the retirees to keep purchasing the county’s health insurance until they reach Medicare age. But the county commission must change the mindset held by employees that they can get the county’s insurance forever, he added.

“That’s the delineation I think we need to make — once you’re Medicare eligible then you shouldn’t be on our plan,” Griesheimer said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is the county’s insurance carrier, and is the only company that agreed to serve the county last year because of the high number of claims, Griesheimer said.

“Everyone else turned us down,” he said.

The fact that the county allows retired employees to stay on the county’s health care plan forever is “killing us,” Griesheimer said.

Griesheimer said providing health insurance to retirees after Medicare age is affecting health insurance rates for current employees.

Brinker agreed cost is a factor, saying, “It does cost the taxpayers by doing that. That’s who’s footing the bill here.”

Vincent asked the commissioners if they wanted to allow a retired employee’s spouse to keep getting the county’s health insurance once the retired employee reaches Medicare age. Griesheimer said the county does not have much choice but to keep offering the county’s benefits until the spouse reaches 65.

Vincent noted that this means a younger spouse could continue getting county health insurance after the former employee goes on Medicare or dies.

The commissioners discussed setting the start date of the new policy at Jan. 1.

“That would be a good target date as far as I’m concerned,” Brinker said.

To make the change official, the commission must formally adopt changes to the personnel policy, Vincent said.

Brinker said he does not think a lot of people take a job based on what kind of health benefits they will have after retirement. He said he thinks employees look at the health benefits they are getting now, not whether they will keep getting those benefits for the rest of their lives after they retire.

Trentmann noted that the county’s health insurance plan is very good. For instance, she said some younger employees have been able to leave their jobs because they qualify for disabilities in the county’s plan.

She added that “even Medicare or Medicaid is nowhere near what our benefits are, especially when you start looking at the prescriptions.”

There are currently people on the county’s health insurance plan who are in their 70s, Trentmann said.

Griesheimer asked how many retired employees are eligible for Medicare but still on the county’s health plan. A figure was not immediately available.