Pay now or pay later; Madison County mulling costly health insurance options

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County leaders have known for some time that the Affordable Care Act would affect their bottomline. Wednesday, they found out just how high that cost may be. The act requires that part-time employees who work more than 30 hours a week receive health insurance benefits.

Currently, there are 20 Madison County employees in nine departments who fall in that category. In an update from the personnel department during a work session, commissioners learned that if every eligible employee was offered insurance and accepted, it would cost the county an estimated $180,000 annually. Madison County’s health insurance is administered through the Local Government Health Care Plan (LGHCP). According to the personnel department, individual coverage costs the county $360 a month per person. Family coverage is $950 a month.

However, the county does have another option. Commissioners could choose not to offer insurance to eligible employees and simply pay the penalty. The cost of that is a bit more difficult to calculate, since it would depend on how many of the employees buy insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace and whether they receive tax credits to do so. The county would be penalized based on the total amount of tax credits. The personnel department estimates the first-year fine could be as low as $250 or as high as $60,000.

Another factor to consider lies with the LCHCP. The group has indicated it may redefine full-time employee to include anyone who works 30 hours or more. If that happens, Madison County would no longer have the option of simply paying the fine and would, instead, be required to offer insurance. There’s also the question of whether rates will go up. Any and all of these scenarios could greatly impact county departments as they begin working on the 2015 budget. A decision from the LCHCP on the definition of full-time is not expected until August.



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