Village officials to discuss health insurance

LISBON — Village council will be asked to reconsider last year’s decision to discontinue extending health insurance coverage to employee spouses and children starting in 2017.

The idea was introduced at this week’s council finance committee by fiscal officer Tracey Wonner and police chief Mike Abraham, who say promised changes to the Affordable Care Act may make health insurance more affordable in the next year or two.

“Will it be more affordable after this new president takes over?” Abraham asked, referring to the election of Donald Trump as the next president. During the campaign, Trump has promised to scrap the ACA, referred to as Obamacare, but his administration is now indicating it may keep some components.

To help absorb a $55,000 (26 percent) increase in health insurance premiums in 2016, with similar increases expected into the future, council agreed last December to discontinue coverage for employee spouses and their children starting in 2017. Spouses and children could still be added to coverage, but the employee would have to pay the entire increase in the monthly premium that would result.

Full-time village employees are scheduled to begin paying 12.5 percent of their insurance premiums for single coverage starting in 2017, and Abraham and Wonner suggested they continue providing coverage for spouses and children but increase the portion of monthly premium paid by workers to 20 percent.

Wonner said the village is facing another insurance increase in 2017, which would cost the village $30,000 more if coverage was continued for everyone and employees paid 12.5 percent of their monthly premium. Increasing their share of the premium to 20 percent would reduce the cost to the village to $5,000.

Abraham believes employees, including himself, would jump at the chance to continue being able to provide coverage for their families even if they pay 20 percent of their premium because it is still cheaper than the alternatives.

“If you want my opinion, the families are the ones who are obviously going to suffer here. I feel if we do this the families will benefit,” he said.

Wonner felt conflicted about the hardship the change will have on employee families and her responsibilities as fiscal officer, because she anticipates that village income tax revenue will remain flat for years to come unless a new major employer moves into town.

“What it comes down to is what route do you want to go,” she told the committee.

Councilman Jeff Snyder said while sympathetic to the employees’ plight, they also need to act in what is in the best interest of the village. “I’ve seen people with no insurance and it would bankrupt them, but we could bankrupt ourselves” by continuing to offer insurance to employee families, he said.

Snyder decided he would bring up the issue at council’s Dec. 13 meeting but not take a position.

Wonner and Abraham also brought up the idea of council granting all employees a 3 percent pay raise in 2017, which would cost the village $26,000. The last such across-the-board pay raise occurred in 2014, but full-time hourly workers receive 2 percent annual step increase during the first five years of employment.

The proposed pay raise will also be discussed at the council meeting.