BRATTLEBORO >> Officials say a change to town employees' health insurance plans will result in savings greater than $30,000 every year.
"Early on in our work, there were some difficult conversations we were having around how employees and not all employees and families would be affected the same way. There was some really challenging work we did together around how to try make sure we would have the most fairest, most positive outcome from this process," Town Manager Peter Elwell said at a March 15 meeting, calling the change a "win-win opportunity in a way that will preserve a very high quality benefit that's appreciated by town employees and their families."
A committee of town employees was put together in October to look at ways to avoid the excise tax, also known as the "Cadillac Tax," which came about through the Affordable Care Act. It's expected to take effect in January 2020.
Up to $80,000 could have been going to the federal government yearly if the town did nothing.
"That would be an unacceptable outcome for both taxpayers and employees," said Elwell. "Given our already tight budget and financial limitations, it would have surely prevented us from either addressing other compensation concerns for the employes or have some other negative impact upon town government."
Since the 2020 date was extended from 2018 when the committee first began, Elwell said the town was able to postpone making major modifications to its health insurance program.
In response to committee findings, the Select Board approved of increasing the deductible to $2,500 for single coverage and $5,000 for family coverage under Blue Cross Blue Shield. Previously, those figures were set at $1,500 and $3,000.
Also, a health reimbursement arrangement or HRA will be created. That program will allow employees' plans to remain "essentially unchanged," according to Elwell. And there could be even substantially bigger savings in the future, he said, but the numbers are difficult to forecast now.
All four employee unions were on board with the proposed changes. Negotiations are currently on-going for the next three-year contract cycle.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.