WILMINGTON -- The Selectboard was given a brief overview of possible health insurance coverage plans that will become available as a result of changes that are coming to Vermont on Oct. 1.
"We've been working on it for the past eight or nine months," said Wilmington Town Manager Scott Murphy, referring to research he and the town's Finance Officer Christine Richter are conducting to prepare for the upcoming changes.
On Aug. 21, Murphy told the board that Wilmington as a municipality is ahead of other towns in terms of preparing for the upcoming changes through the Affordable Care Act. Corporations and municipalities with fewer than 50 workers will have to choose whether to participate in giving employees health insurance. Some will be giving employees a raise to go toward their own purchasing of a plan.
Murphy recommended that the board choose a health care provider. The provider would then send a vendor who could assist town employees with choosing coverage plans through a new website dedicated to selling plans.
The website Vermont Health Connect was created by the governor-appointed Green Mountain Care Board. The idea is to potentially have a single-payer exchange system for the state by 2017. This board has also been tasked with figuring out how such a system would work.
Some of the pricing for the new plans have been finalized. Although there will be different insurance providers available, the pricing for the plans will be virtually the same.
Murphy said that the Vermont League of Cities and Towns has been assisting with reviewing the different options available to the town and there will continue to be changes in health insurance policies.
"This is temporary," he said. "It's going to be on a year-to-year basis with the state."
In particular, fines or penalties for not purchasing a policy will grow each year until 2017. By then, a fine could reach up to over $1,000.
By going with a provider, town employees would receive better coverage than they currently do and it would decrease costs to the town while freeing up administrative duties, Murphy said.The Selectboard will ultimately decide what its policy for health insurance will be. It has traditionally offered its employees health care benefits. Board members agreed that by offering those benefits, the town has attracted employees.
The town is currently using BlueCross BlueShield as its health insurance provider, in which 20 employees are covered. Five employees are not covered by the town, but they are covered by their spouses.
"That could change," said Murphy. "We're gathering more answers as we go along."
He suggested board members send additional questions to him.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.