Selectboard decides on health plan for town employees

GUILFORD — The Selectboard has chosen to fund Blue Cross/Blue Shield bronze health insurance coverage, with a fully town-funded Health Reimbursement Account, or HRA, for town employees starting Jan. 1, 2014.

As Town Administrator Katie Buckley noted at the Sept. 23 Selectboard meeting, money in an HRA, if not used, is retained by the town and can help offset next year's costs.

“We've had the good fortune of having a plan that's had an HRA for the past two or three years, so we have some history in how that's used,” she said.

The town has approximately $24,000 in HRA money it can roll over to the next year, she added.

Selectboard members noted that the town's seven employees - four in the highway department, and three in Town Office - will see no difference in their health care, though they will face more paperwork as they manage their accounts in the Vermont Health Connect exchange, the state's clearinghouse for health insurance, which launches Oct. 1.

By Dec. 15, each employee will need to visit Vermont Health Connect's website and choose their own plan, and are free to opt for greater or lesser coverage. The board's vote establishes the level at which the town is kicking in for employees' health benefits.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, federal law requires all Americans to have health insurance. Many people will be eligible for public programs or financial assistance to help pay for their care. Most people who lack health insurance, starting in 2014, will face a tax penalty.

As health care reform is hotly debated in Washington, D.C., selectmen said they wanted to keep town health coverage as close to the status quo as possible, and that they would revisit their funding with budget talks for FY2015.

Attending the meeting, and commenting on the matter, were Highway Commissioner Dan Zumbruski and highway crewman Allen Bellville.

“Just don't get sick or hurt,” Zumbruski said.

Both Rider and Board Chair Richard Clark passed the motion. Member Troy Revis was absent.

Rider said in casting her vote, “As we've said many times, we value the work [town employees] have done, and we feel this is a good and important benefit to be able to offer them.”

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