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Wayne County health care liabilities down significantly

An independent review of Wayne County's financial restructuring found an $850 million reduction in health care liabilities. 

Since the county declared financial emergency last summer, County Executive Warren Evans' recovery plan restructured employee health plans, among other things, in order to reduce liability and improve the county's financial situation.

A review by Nyhart Actuary & Employment Benefits, based in Indiana, found the restructuring efforts have reduced liabilities by 64% since last year, dropping from $1.325 billion to $471 million.

According to a press release from the county, liabilities would have increased to $1.8 billion last year without the changes. 

"If we had done nothing last year, with the spiraling health care costs we would have been way, way out of whack," Evans said in an interview.

Nyhart employees Randy Gomez and Evi Laksana worked on the report. They said the bulk of the liability relief comes from retirees.

About a quarter of the retirees were eligible to keep their benefits, but had to enroll in a high deductible health plan, specifically the 80/20 plan. The rest will only receive a stipend. 

Simply put, Gomez said, the benefits for employees are not what they used to be.

Still, Gomez and Laksana said the county is being reasonable and that restructuring is not easy.

Evans said the changes were intended to give employees health coverage while also improving the deficit situation. He said this was "about as close as you're going to get to a happy medium." 

He said there is plenty of work to do, including addressing a half-built county jail, for which Evans said there will be a plan in the coming year. 

"The main thing is to be a credit-worthy county," Evans said. "(The county needs) to be able to sell bonds, to have a credit rating that's worthy of the largest county in Michigan."