Carbon County is working to keep county employees safe and covered.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board unanimously voted to accept a proposal from the Housing and Redevelopment Insurance Exchange (HARIE), of Dunmore, for workers' compensation insurance coverage for 2010 at a premium of $1,177,111. This is up $11,490 from the 2009 premium the county paid.

The proposal, which covers 472 full-time employees and 179 part-time employees, is a fixed cost program and includes claim service through Excalibur Claim Management and loss control assistance through Cocciardi & Associates.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, explained the county is spending a total of $7.68 million to guarantee that its employees and their families have medical benefits and the county is insured.

Of that amount, O'Gurek broke it down, saying, $4.6 million will go toward paying medical coverage; $1.4 million is for the county's annual required contribution for the retirement fund; $460,000 is for liability insurance; and nearly $1.2 million is for workers' compensation insurance.

During the last 12 months, the county has paid $4.4 million for medical coverage for its employees. That translates into a cost of $509 per person per month.

O'Gurek said this figure is up 27 percent from 2008.

He added that the employee co-pays will increase slightly. Medical co-pays will now be $12.50 for an employee; $22.50 for an employee and spouse; and $32.50 for a family. Prescription co-pays will be $17.50 for generic brand medications; $27.50 for brand name medications; $35 for 90-day supply generic medications; and $55 for 90-day supply brand name medications.

The county is in the process of trying to find ways to lower its premium.

This is the second year Carbon County has utilized HARIE as its workers' compensation insurance provider.

In December 2008, the county commissioners voted to hire HARIE instead of renewing with its former provider, The Pennsylvania Counties Workers' Compensation Trust (PComp), a program offered by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. At the time, HARIE's 2009 premium was $270,000 lower than PComp's.

This premium is still nearly three times what the county paid for workers' compensation insurance in 2001, when the county's premium was $437,000. Since then it has steadily increased.