County’s Insurance Opt-Out Criticized

A Coffee County policy on health insurance, which local officials say saves taxpayer money, has come under criticism by state auditors.

Coffee County provides incentive payments to employees who find their own insurance through a spouse’s plan or other means, according to a recently issued audit by the state comptroller’s office. The payments are equal to 67 percent of the premium paid by the county for other employees.

The county defended its incentive payments as legal:

“By offering the opt-out benefit to eligible county employees, the county saves a substantial amount of taxpayer dollars toward health-care premiums. The opt-out benefit will be offered until such time that it is a crime or it is not economically feasible.”

But state auditors pointed to a state attorney general’s opinion, saying that the county does not have the authority to make the cash payments.