Neshoba County could face a 60-percent increase in employee health insurance rates during fiscal 2018, supervisors were told on Monday.

Allen Hardy, an agent with Philadelphia Security Insurance, told supervisors that group health insurance “is a mess” as Blue Cross Blue Shield is proposing a 60-percent increase or an additional $316,140 to insure county employees.

“If claims for July look better than the last several months, you might get some relief,” Hardy said.

Fiscal year 2017 to-date, Blue Cross has paid $605,799.67 in claims compared to $465,924.45 in premiums, Hardy said.

“The bad news is that the claims are exceeding the premiums by about $140,000,” he said. “Your top five patients make up almost 58 percent of the claims.”

Under Blue Cross’s current proposal for fiscal 2018, the premium for an employee only would increase from $439.09 to $702.54 a month. For employee/spouse, it would go from $999.68 to $1,599.49. For employee/child it would rise from $716.64 to $1,146.62 and for employee/family, $1,316.28 to $2,106.05.

Hardy told supervisors that carriers were getting slim in Mississippi.

“United Healthcare pulled out of Mississippi for individual coverage and you can’t sell Blue Cross to individuals other than at open enrollment except for two ways: you lost coverage or had a qualifying event,” Hardy said.

He told supervisors that health conditions couldn’t be managed except with preventive methods like Healthy You checkups to diagnosis such things as high blood pressure and diabetes, among other illnesses.

“It’s unfortunate that all of these happened in the same year,” Hardy said of the increase in claims.

He told supervisors that they looked like they were “at a funeral” upon hearing the news of the increase.

“It made my knees weak when I saw the numbers. I had to call back and ask why,” he said.

County Administrator Jeff Mayo asked Hardy if they raised employees’ deductibles from $1,000 to $2,500, if it would result in a savings.

Hardy said it might save up to 5 percent.

He told supervisors they still had about a month to reach a decision on the county’s health insurance.

Hardy said he would pursue other options including a gap plan but noted, “there’s no magic bullet that I am aware of.”

Mayo said the 60-percent increase would result in a “significant adjustment” to the county’s budget for fiscal 2018.

“We’ll have to cut some stuff out,” he said.