DOVER -- Employees of the town thanked the Selectboard for its perseverance in finding a suitable amount of funding for health insurance plans that begin on Oct. 1.
"I'm lost. I'm confused," said Dover Police Officer Randy Johnson, who will become chief of the department on Nov. 1. "From what I'm seeing here, I think you really have our interests and the taxpayers in mind. I sincerely thank you guys. I'm happy."
On Sept. 24, the Dover Selectboard held a special meeting to finalize its decision regarding funding for health care insurance. The board was responsible for determining a cost it would cover, not a plan. Employees themselves will choose their own plans on the Vermont Health Connect website in upcoming weeks.
There was concern voiced at both meetings about how upcoming policy changes would affect the employees. It was noted that issues could be addressed in the future, when the board and the employees are able to better grasp how health insurance will continue to work. For now, it is a bit experimental.
The Vermont Health Connect will now be known as the state's insurance marketplace. According to a public information officer, it will be serving about a quarter of a million of individuals, families and small businesses.
The rates for plans were first reviewed by the Green Mountain Care Board, which was appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin. The work it has done is meant to ultimately provide all Vermonters with health coverage and potentially move to a single payer health care system by 2017.
The employees of Dover, who will be affected by this year's changes, include police officers, solid waste managers, road crew members and administration.
Setting up a Health Reimbursement Account, or an HRA, had been discussed at an earlier meeting. The board and employees generally agreed that having one in place would decrease the employees' risk of exposure.
The HRA is funded by the employer and it reimburses the employee for out-of-pocket medical expenses and individual health insurance premiums. Unused dollars would remain with the town.
Dover Selectboard member Victoria Capitani began by proposing a plan for funding the employees' coverage. She cited the need to stay close to the budget approved by voters at Town Meeting as well as the importance of not giving too much exposure to employees.
Capitani proposed funding the amount necessary for each employee to purchase a platinum plan. She also proposed establishing an HRA in separate amounts for families, individuals and couples.
Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk had a different vision. He initially suggested the board consider the bronze plan. Towards the end of the meeting, the board went through all of the various plans and the corresponding prices, which included maximum out of pocket costs for individual payers as well as families or couples.
The HRA will enable the town to cover its employees in the event that they incur health insurance bills that would not be directly covered in the plans.
Ultimately, the Selectboard decided to fund the appropriate amount needed for employees to purchase a silver plan for themselves and their family if they choose to. They could also opt for another plan, such as the platinum, which they would have to pay the difference for.
By going with Terk's recommendation, funding the amount necessary for silver plans, the Selectboard would also "not blow the budget" that voters had approved.
"I don't think we're doing our job as a Selectboard if we choose the platinum. And as long as we fund the HRA appropriately, we're providing the level of protection equally. Under all funding scenarios, we provide the same level of protection," said Terk. "In a year, when everything has shaken out, I might go with the bronze as long as employees have the same level of protection."
At the previous meeting, the employees had weighed in and assisted the board with deciding to fund only the plans available through Blue Cross Blue Shield, instead of MVP. Those are the two choices available through the Vermont Health Connect.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.