DOVER -- The Selectboard had requested input from town employees in anticipation of upcoming changes to the health insurance policy, beginning in October.
"There's a lot of confusion out there," said Dover Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk. "We want to make sure town employees understood why this was different than ways decisions were made regarding health care in the past because it's a significant difference."
On Sept. 17, members of the Dover Police Department as well as administrative employees gathered to discuss how the Selectboard should go about establishing an appropriate amount of funding for the health insurance program.
Terk thought a good way to describe the board's role in the process was: "We pay, you choose."
"All we do at this table is decide how much we're spending," he said.
Police officer Randy Johnson, who will become the chief in Dover on Nov. 1, said he felt that as a municipality, the town should stay competitive with other municipalities. He cited health insurance as a particular benefit that potential employees look for when applying for a job.
Johnson suggested that the dollar amount be comparable to what the town currently has in place. He also advocated for a Health Reimbursement Account, or HRA, which is funded by the employer and it reimburses the employee for out-of-pocket medical expenses and individual health insurance premiums.
Other town employees recommended the HRA as well, because it would minimize out-of-pocket expenses and unused dollars would remain with the town.
Each employee eventually will go to the Vermont Health Connect website and choose their own plan. By having an HRA set up, the insured are less likely to be exposed to high costs that could be incurred.
"With an adequate HRA, everyone says, ‘We're happy.' That's why we're having this conversation," said Terk. "The over-riding message I think I heard was you don't care which column we base it on. The real concern is to minimize your out-of-pocket cost."
The different plans are based on the metals, which include platinum, gold and bronze.
There are only two health insurance companies that Vermonters can choose between, MVP and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The town employees generally conceded that they all agreed on going with Blue Cross Blue Shield as the town's carrier.
"You know all of our phone numbers," Terk told the employees. "Recognize, the bottom line is we're all stakeholders. We all get property tax bills. We understand the value of the old health care plan to all our employees. I don't have any intent to undermine that. There's an equilibrium we want to try and strike. It won't be easy."
Johnson noted the history of health insurance coverage between Selectboard and town employees.
"When we first started, we had top notch (plans). As these plans got more expensive, town employees knew that was hitting the townspeoples' pockets," he said. "The employees agreed. We have actually gone down to help with that cost because we understand what that cost is. We've dropped our insurance in the 30 something years I have been here. We didn't fight. We've worked with the Selectboard."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.