The Guilford County commissioners have punted on potential changes to the county’s 2020 employee health insurance plan – however, the ball will be back in their hands very soon and they’ll have a tough decision to make.

The county’s roughly 2,300 employees currently enjoy a very attractive health insurance plan – as do their dependents and county retirees – but it’s also an expensive plan that, like many health insurance plans across the country, is getting more and more expensive.

So the board must decide whether to pump more county money into the insurance program for 2020, trim benefits, raise premiums or make a combination of moves.

At a Thursday, Oct. 17 work session, the commissioners discussed the matter and – though staff wanted a decision that day – the commissioners put it off and now they’ll have to make a decision in the coming weeks.

County Manager Marty Lawing and his staff want to know the nature of the county’s 2020 insurance plan because it’s time to start open enrollment for next year.

In 2014 through 2018, inflows and outflows were roughly even at about $35 million, however, that’s changed and now costs have risen to over $44 million while the inflow of money is only at about $38 million.

Staff estimates project outflows of $58 million by the year 2024, with an inflow of only $41 million at that time – so, obviously, some move needs to be made to keep the program sustainable.

Currently, the county pays 86 percent of employee premiums, while employees pay the remaining 14 percent.

The subject is a highly sensitive one for county employees who don’t want to see either a premium increase or a reduction in benefits.

The county commissioners are expected to reach a decision on the best way to handle the challenge very soon.