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Mary Stroka, NLJ Reporter

Health insurance increases burden local governments

The cost of insurance premiums for employees of government entities in Weston County has increased consistently over the past decade, and it accounts for millions of dollars in spending each year. Many local governments are anticipating that the cost of this employee benefit will rise again as they prepare budgets for the coming year.

The News Letter Journal reached out to local governments to find out how much the costs have increased and how the various entities have distributed the costs for those increases between themselves and their employees over the years.

School districts

Weston County School District No. 1’s business manager, Angela Holliday, said in an email on March 21 that the school district pays 70% of insurance premiums, while employees pay the remaining portion. Ninety-six employees receive coverage through the district. The current annualized premium is $1,676,604.

Holliday said that premiums increased 16% for fiscal year 2024-25 and 13.5% for fiscal 2023-24. Five years ago, there was no increase. There was a 4% increase 10 years ago.

Whether the district passes the costs along to the employees “depends year to year on the budget,” according to Holliday.

For the $1,500 deductible insurance plan, individual coverage costs the employee $217.20 monthly, while the district pays $506.80, she said. Employee plus spouse coverage costs the employee $433.20 while the district pays $1,010.80. For employee plus dependent coverage, the employee pays $386.10 and the district pays $900.90. The monthly cost for family coverage is $603.30 for the employee and $1,407.70 for the district.

For the $2,500 deductible plan, singles pay $199.80 while the district pays $466.20. Employees who want coverage for themselves and a spouse pay $398.40 while the district pays $929.60. The cost to an employee who chooses insurance coverage for themselves and a dependent is $355.20 while the district pays $828.80. Family coverage is $555 for the employee and $1,295 for the district.

Weston County School District No. 7 Superintendent Clark Coberly said in an email on March 18 that the district pays 92% of the insurance premium for employees and the total cost per year to the district is about $889,000.

Coberly said in an email on March 25 that while the district’s business manager, who keeps the data is out of the office for the week, he believes that 51 out of 65 eligible employees receive insurance benefits through the district.

The board sets the salary and benefits package annually, he said in the March 18 email.

“To the best of my recollection, the board has taken on the full increase in insurance premiums since 2017 at least,” Coberly said. “This is part of the total compensation package.”

Monthly, the district pays $716 for single individual coverage while the employee pays $63; $1,250 for employee and child coverage while the employee pays $110; $1,434 for employee and spouse coverage while the employee pays $126; and $1,966 for family coverage while the employee pays $173, according to Coberly.

The costs have increased every July since 2015, except for in 2016, 2020 and 2021, Coberly said. The rates increased 13% in 2015, 4% in 2017, 6% in 2018, 3% in 2019, 2% in 2022, 7.5% in 2023 and 13% in 2024.

Weston County Health Services

Some of the lowest premiums were reported for employees at the local hospital. Weston County Health Services CEO Randy Lindauer said in an email on March 19 that the amount that the costs for the entity and the employee for the premiums depend on the health plan the employee chooses. However, per person, per pay period, on average, the entity pays an average of $428 while the employee pays $171.

“Family and spouse coverage vary,” Lindauer said, regarding both what employees pay and what the entity pays.

On average, the cost of premiums has risen 72% since 20 years ago, 58% since 15 years ago, 47% since 10 years ago and 22% since five years ago, compared with a national average increase of around 4.5% per year, according to Lindauer.

The hospital district does not always pass the increases along to employees, he said. It’s up to the board of trustees.

“To my knowledge, the hospital absorbed last year’s increase,” WCHS President Dorothy Briggs said in an email on March 20.

Briggs, who joined the board in September 2022, said that the board of trustees, “as per usual,” reviews with administrators an increase that will be proposed for 2025.

“To my knowledge, in 2021 it was absorbed by the hospital and in 2022 the hospital split it 50/50 with the employees,” Briggs said. “It is important to remember, we are a governing board, not a managing board. We trust our CEO, and his team will look at the appropriate plans for the employees and then bring the finance piece back to the board.”

Weston County

Weston County Clerk Becky Hadlock said in a March 25 letter responding to a public records request that health care premium costs rose 9% in fiscal 2021, 8% in fiscal 2022, 14% in fiscal 2023, 15.5% in fiscal 2024 and 8% in fiscal 2025. Costs before fiscal 2021 are not accessible, she said.

“(Whether the county passes along increases to employees or covers it from the general fund) depends on the year and how the County feels they are financially for the upcoming fiscal year,” she said.

Employees can choose a Blue Cross Blue Shield medical insurance plan with a $1,500 deductible or a $2,500 deductible, according to the documentation she provided. Under the $1,500 deductible plan, employees pay $186.93 for single coverage while the county pays $894.07, $284.04 for adult and one dependent coverage while the county pays $1,357.96, $367.09 for coverage for two adults while the county pays $1,757.91 or $506.55 for a family plan while the county pays $2,176.45. The $2,500 deductible plan requires the employee to choose to pay $60.27 for single coverage while the county pays $933.73, $170.04 for adult and one dependent coverage while the county pays $1,340.96, $220.09 for coverage for two adults while the county pays $1,734.91 or $320.55 for family coverage while the county pays $2,147.45. The county pays for employees’ vision and dental insurance premiums.


The City of Newcastle has been part of the Wyoming Educators’ Benefit Trust since 2005, according to documentation that the city’s clerk-treasurer, Stacy Haggerty, emailed to the News Letter Journal on March 18.

According to the nonprofit health benefit trust’s website, it uses Blue Cross Blue Shield, Delta Dental of Wyoming and Vision Service Plan as its third-party administrators.

The paperwork that Haggerty provided showed that the current benefits the city offers are a $1,500 deductible plan, with 80/20 sharing, up to $7,500, with a $40 office co-pay.

In fiscal 2023, the city paid $416,994.01 in contributions for insurance premiums.

Haggerty said in an email on March 25 that the city pays its 28 employees’ entire monthly premiums for medical and dental insurance. The monthly premiums are $807 for single coverage, $1,622 for coverage for two adults, $1,380 for the employee and a dependent, and $2,154 for family coverage. Beginning July 1, those costs will rise to $912, $1,833, $1,559 and $2,434, respectively. The current dental insurance monthly premiums are $34 for singles, $87 for two adults, $95 for an adult and a dependent, and $117 for family coverage. Starting July 1, the rates will rise to $35, $89, $97 and $119, respectively.

The health care premiums rose 6% in July 2018 and 5% in July 2019, according to the documentation. In July 2020, July 2021, July 2022 and July 2023, the rates rose 10%, 4%, 6% and 13.5%, respectively, with premiums rounded to the nearest whole dollar. Dental premiums have risen from $26.91 for a single in the first half of 2017.


The Town of Upton has felt the sting of insurance cost increases also, but, due to a number of factors, may have fared better than its counterparts in some respects.

Upton Clerk-Treasurer Kelley Millar said in an email on March 18 that the town of Upton currently pays the full insurance premium for eight full-time employees and employees’ dependents.

The town is among 68 cities, towns and joint powers boards that take part in the pool-funded Wyoming Association of Municipalities Joint Powers Insurance Coverage, she said. Individual entities fit into one of several tiers based on factors such as how the group’s claims compare with those of the whole pool. The pool offers different deductible limits, including a high-deductible health plan.

“This board takes a very conservative approach to keeping the pool in good financial health with careful membership consideration, thoughtful rate adjustments, benefit adjustments in line with the ACA requirements, and a sound claims reserve,” Millar said. “We just had our FYE 2025 rate setting meeting last week where it was determined (with actuarial support of course) that the program would not need rate increases for any of the offered plans for the upcoming fiscal year, and the board is also able to offer a premium holiday for all groups in the pool. For Upton, that will be a savings of approximately $15,069.32.”

Upton provides insurance coverage that includes health, dental and vision care, through Blue Cross Blue Shield and Davis Vision, she said. The insurance premium cost is $1,921.35 monthly for a family of four, $1,219.91 monthly for an employee and child, $1,403.37 monthly for an employee and spouse, and $701.82 monthly for single coverage. Millar said that the town also covers an accidental death and dismemberment life insurance premium for the employee and dependents, at a monthly cost of $3.67 per family or $3.30 per single. Overall, the town pays a total of $12,443.02 monthly.

Before fiscal 2022 ended, the town paid 95% of health and dental premiums, according to Millar.

“At that time, the full-time employees forwent salary increases to have the Town bump up to 100% for the insurance premiums and we requested that continue in FYE 2024, and will again in FYE 2025 as well,” she said.

From fiscal 2023 to fiscal 2024, the pool, overall, experienced a 3% increase, but the town dropped a tier, so its costs went down 5%, according to Millar. The town has dropped from tier 12 to tier 10 over her tenure with the town.

The town was in a “healthier group,” compared with the overall pool, she said in an email on March 25.

“We’ve probably seen an aggregate premium increase around 5% since 2015, but rates have remained very stable in the big picture for us,” Millar said in the March 18 email.

She said the cost of premiums will not increase from the end of fiscal 2024 to the end of fiscal 2025.

For fiscal 2024, the town paid $148,968.36 overall, and the town has budgeted about $180,831.84 for fiscal 2025, she said. The actual cost will depend on any employee plan changes, such as new hires.

Millar said in the email on March 25 that the projected increase considers possible new employees in the police department and a possible change in part-time to full-time employment for a public works employee.

“When we budget for an unknown new hire, we budget their benefits package at a family plan,” she said. “We are in our preliminary budget work, so we will always budget for highest expense case scenario when we don’t know the exact particulars. We can make adjustments in the following budgets as to the actual benefits package and cost, or change the plan for employment entirely as to full-time, part-time or contract work if that’s determined to be what is best for the good of the order.”

All benefits for all employees are allocated in percentages to the departments they work in, she said. Increases in the cost of premiums are allocated to funds based on how employees’ time is dedicated.

“For example, my time is split between General Fund accounts that include general government operations, public safety, parks, streets, etc. and the Enterprise Fund accounts of water, sewer, sanitation and landfill. Currently, any premium increases would increase to each of those funds in correlation with
the percentage of my time that is allocated to the fund,” she said.

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