In the coming weeks, the Webster Parish Police Jury’s administrative committee will discuss how to best provide healthcare coverage to parish employees to avoid potentially crippling taxes on “grandfathered in” plans.
The parish’s renewal date is May 1, and the police jury, as an employer, has been grandfathered in since the full enactment of the Affordable Care Act. However, they may not be able to escape the penalties of that status for much longer, even though they are in compliance with the ACA’s regulations.
In Tuesday’s administrative committee meeting, Secretary Treasurer Ronda Carnahan explained their healthcare coverage with Blue Cross Blue Shield is increasing by 13 percent. They already pay $1.2 million annually to cover their employees, which include the police jury, the public works department, police jury office staff, the district attorney’s office staff and the judges’ office staff. Employees who are considered full time, qualified employees have the option for health benefits.
Parish attorney Patrick Jackson says eventually the government will force them to use the ACA to get their healthcare coverage.
“What we do in Bossier may not work for Webster, so we have to look at every opportunity to save money,” Jackson said. “The biggest issue for you to decide is the level of risk tolerance. As with most things with the federal government, how they make you do things is with money.”
He says in 2017-18, the federal government will tax all grandfathered plans.
“What that means is, you can keep it, but that 13 percent increase won’t even be close to the additional increases to force you to come into compliance with the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “For you, it’s the reverse of what other employers have. A lot of other employers have plans that are deficient in complying; your plan complies with ACA but has some additional benefits that wouldn’t be required.”
He suggested eliminating the “grandfathered in” status, saying it wasn’t going to be worth it anymore. He went over other issues they will have to consider, such as prescription drug plans, hospitalization and doctors’ visits.
Jury President Jim Bonsall says if they can stay local, they intend to.
“That’s something that I feel like we should look at is doing business in Webster Parish,” he said. “I believe if we can do business in Webster Parish, we should. But we also represent the taxpayers of Webster Parish, and it’s our duty to spend their tax money wisely.”
If the administrative committee cannot come to a consensus before the May 1 deadline, then the police jury will keep their current plan but pay their premiums monthly until they decide what direction they want to take, Carnahan said.
On the administrative committee are: Vera Davison, District 10, chairman, Jerri M. Lee, District 9, vice chairman, Daniel Thomas, District 3, Steve Ramsey, District 11, Nick Cox, District 8, Steve Lemmons, District 7, and Bruce Blanton, District 1.
The first committee meeting is yet to be determined.