Commissioner retirement health insurance causing conflict among Carroll delegation

Commissioner benefits — specifically retirement health care — has created friction between local delegates and Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners.

The issue was publicly mentioned at a meeting between the commissioners and the delegation in December, and continues to be brought up by Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5. Commissioners have since said they will take up the topic in coming months.


In an interview with the Times, Krebs said it’s an unprecedented benefit and it’s costly to the county.

As it stands now, commissioners who are in office are on the same health insurance as other county employees. After two terms, commissioners are eligible for health insurance as a retiree for themselves and eligible dependents that were on the plan when they left office, Chris Winebrenner, spokeswoman for the county, said via email. Dependent children are allowed to stay on the plan until the end of the calendar year they reach the age of 26, she added.


If the retired commissioner is younger than 50 years old, they are only eligible to stay on the plan until they reach Medicare age, or until they are eligible for insurance through another employer plan, Winebrenner said. If the commissioner is 50 years old or older, they can stay on the county’s insurance plan, but the county’s liability becomes secondary once they reach Medicare age, and Medicare becomes the primary payer.

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners approved changes to the pension plan for Detention Center employees as well as a purchase order for 30 Tasers for the Sheriff's Office.

Winebrenner said there are three retired commissioners and spouses enrolled in health care coverage — Donald Dell, Julia Gouge and Dean Minnich. Former Commissioner Robin Frazier is the only retired elected official with family health care coverage, and there are also two spouses of deceased retired commissioners — John Armacost and William Lauterbach — who are currently enrolled, she said.

Winebrenner said prior to September 1999, there was not a specified term requirement in the retiree health care policies. The policy specified an age plus years of service requirement, she added.

In September 1999, the policy was amended to specify the two-term requirement, and in May 2005 — the latest revision of the policy — the elected official age requirement was reduced to 50 to receive retiree health care benefits post Medicare, Winebrenner said.

Krebs said the policy changed “dramatically” in 2005, and she has three main issues with the current health care coverage for retired commissioners: the policy used to require a commissioner to serve three terms, but they are now eligible at two terms; the commissioner doesn’t have to be of retirement age to receive the retirement benefits; and the rate scale compared to that of other county retired employees is different.

“There's nowhere in elected office in the state of Maryland that people have benefits that are different from their employees,” Krebs said. “The county commissioners’ benefits are different from their employees.”

Winebrenner could not specify how much commissioner health insurance costs the county each month.

“The county is self-insured, as such, costs are dependent on the health of each individual employee. We don’t track the expenses by individual employee; we track by aggregate cost of all covered employees,” she said.

She could say how much money went toward health insurance and retiree benefits for all county employees each year, which includes the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office, Carroll County Public Library, Carroll County Circuit Court, Carroll Soil Conservation District and the Humane Society of Carroll County.

In fiscal year 2015, there were 1,035 eligible active employees that cost $13,021,527.80 and 384 retirees that cost $3,503,147.80; in FY16, there were 1,049 eligible active employees that cost $15,096,023.77 and 413 retirees that cost $4,100,178.27; and in FY17, there were 1,055 eligible active employees that cost $14,982,376.53 and 420 retirees that cost $4,689,220.91. The county has 1,056 eligible active employees at $14,787,500.00 and 440 retirees at $5,900,000 budgeted for FY19, Winebrenner said.

Winebrenner said, like commissioners, county employees are eligible for retirement benefits, and in order to be eligible, they must have: at least five years continuous county service through the date of retirement; at least 10 years of total county service —15 years if hired May 1, 2005, or later; been eligible for county-provided health coverage as a regular employee for at least five years immediately preceding the date of retirement; and their age plus years of service equal at least 75.

Employees who retired Jan. 1, 2006, and prior pay the same contribution rate for retiree insurance as employees that are actively employed, she said. Employees hired prior to May 1, 2005, and retired after Jan. 1, 2006, pay 1.25 times to 2 times the active employee contribution rate, which is based upon years of service. Employees hired on May 1, 2005, or after pay 33⅓ percent to 50 percent of the total estimated cost of the insurance based upon years of service, she added.


The amount the commissioners are required to pay depends on the plan they choose and the level of coverage they need, Winebrenner said.

There are retiree only, retiree and spouse, and retiree and family rates for the commissioners, she said. For 2018, for Choice Plan under 65, costs range from $778.18 a year for retiree only to $2,140.32 retiree and family, she said. For Choice Plus Plan under 65, costs range from $1,195.74 a year for retiree only to $3,288.48 for retiree and family, she said. For the Medicare Supplemental plan for those 65 and older, costs range from $778.18 a year for retiree to $1,556.36 for retiree and spouse, Winebrenner added.

Krebs also said she is concerned about this benefit because commissioner compensation is determined by state law, and compensation should include more than just salary. It should include things like health benefits and retirements, but the state law doesn’t directly specify those items, she said. It’s “silent” on that type of benefit.

“The question becomes are they even able to give themselves [this]?” Krebs said, adding that it’s a gray area. “We need to get it fixed.”

Krebs said she has previously brought up the issue and said her hope is to have commissioners look into it and address it sometime in January. It’s important to address what the benefits should be for the current board and the next board, she said.

And while Krebs has said she has concerns, Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, said commissioners have said they will look at the benefits in January, and they plan to do just that.

“It’s something that we may want to make an adjustment to,” he said, adding that he’s happy to look into it.


This isn’t one of the county’s biggest issues right now, Howard added. And, he said, Krebs should be focused on bigger issues, and should also hold herself to the same standards she’s holding others to.


“[The delegation] ought to stick to the state issues,” he added.

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