Less than a month after voting to terminate a contract for telephone-based medical service to the county’s roughly 390 employees, the Morgan County Commission rescinded the decision in a bid to stem rising health-care costs.

During a budget hearing Wednesday, the commission voted unanimously to extend its MD Live telehealth service contract for another year.

The commission voted unanimously July 27 to terminate the roughly $14,000 annual contract effective Oct. 1 due to lack of participation. Chairman Ray Long said only about 15 employees had used the service throughout the year, including some of the commissioners.

Commissioner Randy Vest, of District 2, argued for its reinstatement.

“I think that really could be a great tool to help offset some of the costs if we could just get some of our employees to utilize it, and think maybe education is where we failed,” he said.

Long said mandatory meetings would be held for employees in hopes of getting more people to use the service that lets users access a doctor over the phone or internet for minor ailments and have prescriptions electronically sent to their pharmacies.

Vest said employees were not using the service because they haven’t been trained on how to use it and do not understand it is free. He told commissioners he would pay for the extra year out of District 2 funds if the program does not pay for itself.

The decision came as the self-insured county is on track to close fiscal 2017, which ends Sept. 30, about $880,000 over budget on health care.

Blaming an inordinate number of surgeries, Long said he is hopeful the increased spending level is only temporary. He has not proposed a change in insurance premiums.

Long warned Thursday that the county would have to make “massive cuts” mid-year and will probably have to let some employees go if the trend does not reverse.

“We’ve got to look for a way to scale back our health-care costs or we’re going to be hurting,” he said.

Commissioners have proposed contracting a free clinic for employees in hopes of reducing costly emergency room and urgent-care visits, but they said Thursday that option would cost about $300,000 and would require at least 15 percent of employees to participate.

evan.belanger@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2439. Twitter @evanbelanger.

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