From the Desk of the President (October, 2010)

Hennepin County Self Insurance: What will this mean to you?  Hopefully, you all took the time to read the e-mail from County Administrator Richard Johnson, sent on September 10, 2010.  This is a brief synopsis that I crafted based on questions from members following that e-mail:


There are two distinct parts to Richard Johnson's e-mail. 

·  The first part pertains to self insurance effective 1/1/2011.  Wes Volkenant, Vicki Moore and I have all written about self insurance in our newsletter articles over the past several years so this should not be something new to people.  We, along with our Business Representative, Matt Nelson, have provided updates on the process at the monthly General Assembly meetings.  The four of us, along with Doyle Juenke, another of our Local 34 members, represent our local on the Labor/Management HealthCare Committee and were involved in a good part of the discussions regarding the pros and cons of switching from fully -funded insurance to self-insurance and what the ramifications of that change would be. 

·  Text Box:  The second part pertains to the selection of a Third Party Administrator (TPA) for self insurance.  The union folks received information about the proposals put forward by the groups who wanted to be the TPA for the county's self insurance program.  However, we were not part of the decision making group as that falls in the Employer's purview. 


·  Their recommendation was presented to the County Board, the Commissioners were briefed on all the reasons for making the choice, and the Board voted to go with the final recommendation of Preferred One to administer the plan.

·  You should note that County Board is the body with the authority to make the final decision on both the switch to self insurance and which firm would be the TPA. 

·  As noted in Richard Johnson's e-mail, the current benefits are not going to change with the switch to self-insurance.  Whatever we have now, will be what we have next year.  It will then be up to our Table Team to work out on-going benefit sets during negotiations in 2011 for our new contract for 2012 and beyond.

·  One positive thing about self-insurance is that we an opportunity to have a much stronger voice in negotiations to look at what the benefits set will be - perhaps design something that more accurately reflects what we need, instead  of the cookie cutter choices currently available to us and have input in how the wellness programs are structured.  

·  The Presidents of the six AFSCME locals meet with County Administrator Johnson on a monthly basis.  At our last meeting, we suggested that he consider dedicating his next round of brown bag lunches to the topic of self-insurance so that employees have an opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns.  He stated he would add that to his list of topics.  Also, he let us know that they do not plan to increase the monthly premium for 2011 insurance.  This means that, per the terms of our contract, there will be no increase in the employee's contribution for family coverage. 

·  Rafe Viscasillas, Director for Human Resources, noted that they will be adding a section on the Benefits intranet site with FAQ's (frequently asked questions) and the answers to those questions for self insurance.

I hope that answers some of the questions that you have.  Please let me know if you have others.


And speaking of health insurance, have you watched the on-line video, “Health Works!” yet?  Watching the video is part of the process to earn the $15.00 discount on 2011 office visit co-pays.  It can be found at:  All employees and their spouses, if covered by the county's insurance plan, are required to watch the video, as well as completing the health assessment in order to be eligible for the reduced co-pays.  A notice about the health assessment should be sent out sometime around the beginning of October.  You will have until October 31st to complete the assessment and watch the video.  Please consider doing both as soon as possible to avoid that pesky last minute rush to get it done. 


Phone Banks - please note that Local 34 has designated Thursday, October 14th, as our Local 34 phone bank night.  We are going to do this one at the Council 5 location instead of the Minneapolis site due to logistics and staff availability for that evening.  Car-pooling from Minneapolis to the Council office might be an option if you do not want to make the drive yourself.  Also, AFSCME Council 5 continues to hold phone banks every Tuesday and Thursday evening up to the November 2nd election.  The Tuesday phone banks are held at the Council 5 office, 300 Hardman Ave S, South St Paul, starting at 5:30 PM.  The Thursday phone banks are held at the Labor Center, 312 Central Ave SE, Minneapolis, usually on the 2nd floor, starting at 5:30 PM.  You can call Tigger Lunney at 651-238-6324, to let him know when you can do some calling in support of our endorsed candidates.  He will also have information about door knocks and getting locations for lawn signs.  As always, if you have a favorite candidate and want to spend your efforts supporting that person but don't know how to do so, let me know and I will help you find out how to reach that particular campaign.


Fall is upon us - already.  Pretty soon we will be raking leaves and getting ready for Halloween.  Have a wonderful October - take some time to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves against that lovely blue sky we only see at this time of the year.