By increasing individual deductibles from $3,000 to $5,000 per year, County commissioners will be able to reduce premiums by about 14 percent and double the amount currently contributed to Health Savings Accounts from $750 to $1,500 for county employees enrolled in the health insurance program.

The county was facing a 13 percent increase in premiums before Commissioner Phil Bane asked the Johnson & Williamson insurance agency to look at other options, Bane said. One option was to increase the deductible to $75,000 but Bane said that proved to not be a good idea when he learned how many employees met the current $3,000 deductible last year.

Eighty county employees are currently in the plan offered by United Health Care.

Auditor Michelle Cash warned there might not be enough money left in the line item for HSAs to cover an increase.

County councilman Tom Utley spoke to the commissioners.

"We are going to be discussing healthcare costs year after year," Utley said. "We've gotta do something. We're really getting down to no alternative."

County Councilman Richard Chastain pointed out that county employees pay about 20 percent of their pay for their health insurance premiums each year.

"Maybe we should go with a higher deductible and give them a pay raise," Chastain said.

It will not be known for months how much the new clinic will save the county, city and the three school corporations, Commissioner Terry Hockersmith said.

Commissioner Jim Fulwider said the commissioners need to remember they will not be locked in to a decision on the insurance plan.

"The insurance company guarantees a price for 12 months, but we are not locked in," he said.

Hockersmith made the motion to take the plan with United Health that will raise the deductible to $5,000 and "at some point in the future" determine what to contribute to the health savings accounts.

The motion passed 2-1 with Bane voting with Hockersmith. Fulwider said he was voiting against the measure because he was not sure how employee benefits would be changed by the new insurance plan.