Joe Parisi file photo

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi speaks at a County Board meeting.

Dane County is a big step closer to resolving an $8 million deficit in the 2012 budget, thanks to a new five-year agreement with insurer Physicians Plus that will save the county more than $1 million in 2012.

The savings come from reduced premium rates and increased premium contributions from county workers.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the cost savings at a news conference Tuesday morning.

"These health care savings are critical in helping us address the $8 million deficit in the county's 2012 budget, brought on by severe cuts from the state government," Parisi said in prepared remarks.

"The road ahead remains difficult and will contain shared sacrifice, but we have shown today we can solve our problems by innovating and working together with our employees," Parisi said.

The new five-year health insurance plan with Physicans Plus runs from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2016.

According to administration director Travis Myren, the county negotiated changes in the health insurance plan design with all of the unions representing county employees, with the changes and competitive bids resulting in a savings of about $900,000 in premiums the first year of the contract.

Additional premium contributions by employees of about $250,000 pushes the savings up to over $1.1 million in 2012.

Dane County also agreed to a new three-year dental insurance deal with Delta Dental that will save about $25,000 in premiums for plan users.

The Physicans Plus contract has caps on premium increases of 7 percent in 2013 and 2014 and 7.5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

"Physicans Plus has a proud history of providing quality health care to its customers," CEO Mike Mohoney said in a prepared statement. "We are happy to continue our partnership with Dane County and to continue to provide this quality care to the county's employees."

Myren said the Physicans Plus contract also guarantees access to physicans and specialists at both UW Health and Meriter Health Systems.

"This guarantee was important to employees who were concerned about reports that individuals covered by Physicians Plus insurance may lose access to UW Health physicans," Myren said. "The contract secures access to these providers on the same basis as is provided now."