From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 32 - August 9, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County claims ‘shocking’

by Alecia Warren

At the County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Ken Konicek, benefit specialist with Tegeler and Associates insurance company, reviewed the numbers from health care coverage of county employees over the past 10 months.

So far, the county has paid $1.2 million on claims, he said, a “shocking” contrast to the $400,000 it paid at this point last year. Although these figures reflect a 40 percent increase in county employees, Konicek attributed a large percentage of the claims to the unusual amount of complicated pregnancies in the county this year, and he predicted claims would return to normal numbers in upcoming months.

Konicek proposed raising rates for the Sublette County Rural Health Care District Board (RHCDB) 20 to 30 percent, as the board’s number of employees jumped from about 10 to 50 this past year and a half. “The county has been generous in letting them stay on, but with RHCDB being such a significant size, they should be paying a relatively fair market value into the plan,” Konicek said.

He also suggested raising rates 10 percent for retirees and people covered under the Congressional Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), or people receiving temporary coverage after leaving employment, to balance rates with medical inflation. The board agreed to vote on these changes at the next meeting.

Various private landowners and representatives from the Green River Valley Land Trust (GRVLT) also approached the commissioners with concerns about the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Resource Management Plan, specifically the looming possibility of the BLM leasing land for oil and gas development in the Upper Green River Valley, the upper New Fork area and the Hoback Basin.

The commissioners might not be able to stop the leasing, said GRVLT board member Ron Rhyne, but they could make an impact by raising their voices to the BLM. “At least take the position and state that this land is valuable and needs to be protected from leasing,” Rhyne said, adding that money from drilling couldn’t save the wildlife that attracts many people to live in Sublette County.

“That’s what we’re looking for, that you take that position.” Commissioner William Cramer said he applauded their protests. “I’m in favor of what you’re advocating, I’ve been a mouthpiece for it and I will continue to be,” Cramer said. He has told Senators Mike Enzi and John Barrasso face-to-face that oil and gas development in Sublette County is “maxed out,” he said.

Commissioner John Linn, however, told the environmentalists that they needed to face reality.

“I’m not advocating to lease everything, but it comes down to more than if you want to keep the scenic value of those areas or not, it comes down to the multiple use issue,” Linn said, adding that preserving the environment for timber or recreational industries couldn’t compete with potential profit from oil and gas. “If you’re not the strongest leg in multiple use, you can be knocked out.”

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