Court issues injunction on county retiree healthcare move

GENESEE COUNTY — A plan to save costs on Genesee County retiree healthcare has stalled, following a recent decision made in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court.

On Dec. 21, Judge Kay Behm issued a partial injunction to stop the move of Genesee County retirees to a new health insurance provider. The transition, which is expected to save the county around $6.8 million annually, is now on hold as the case works its way through the court.

“We are certainly disappointed by the Judge’s decision,” said Genesee County Board Chairman Martin Cousineau. “We have got to get this right for the county and our retirees. I know that this is going to be a priority for the newly elected Board, and I wish them well in finding an adequate resolution to this issue.”

Prior to the injunction, the county was planning to consolidate retiree healthcare plans and switch from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to Etna on Jan. 1. The move was made on recommendation from the county’s healthcare consultant Plante Moran, which was hired late last year to solve the county’s rising healthcare costs.

In November, a group of county retirees sued Genesee County to prevent it from consolidating plans and switching to a new healthcare provider.

Josh Freeman, the Genesee County Board Director of Administration, said that 27 retiree contracts must remain status quo as part of the injunction and can’t be changed over as part of the transition process.

“Our insurance companies want the entire cohort of retirees included in the transition or they can’t make the move happen,” Freeman said. “The county is now in a ‘hold pattern,’ and our staff will have to go back and make sure our (current) insurance carriers and wraparound services are turned back on and available for our retirees before Jan. 1.”

Under the current healthcare plan, the county spends around $1.4 million a month toward retiree healthcare and a $160,000 a week on average for retirees’ prescription drug plans, according to board commissioners.