County passing on health care costs

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LISBON -Whenever a new insurance tax charged under Obamacare takes effect on employers, Columbiana County commissioners indicated they will pass the expense on to their workers instead of taking it out of the county budget.

"That's a pretty big chunk that will be coming out of their paycheck," said county Commission Chairman Mike Halleck, speaking at Wednesday's board meeting.

Halleck was speaking about the " transitional reinsurance fee" mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The fee is a three-year tax assessed against employer-sponsored group health plans, starting in 2014, with the money used by the federal government to cover higher-than-expected costs for insurers offering coverage through the government-run exchanges.

In other action at the meeting, commissioners:

Commissioners said it is their understanding employers must pay a "reinsurance" tax of $63 for every person covered under the employer's insurance plan, the workers and their dependents.

"It's for everyone who's covered. In my case, it will cost me $189," said Halleck, whose wife and daughter are covered under the plan.

Commissioners were under the impression the reinsurance tax takes effect as originally proposed in 2014, but their clerk indicated collection has been delayed a year until early 2015, at least that's the latest news from their insurance carrier and several other sources on the Internet.

Regardless of when the tax takes effect, commissioners estimated it would cost county taxpayers $50,000 if they opt to pay the tax instead of passing it on to those covered under the plan.

"This came as a complete surprise to us and certainly nothing we were able to plan for in our budget," Halleck said, adding he was also disturbed to hear the Obama Administration was considering exempting unions from paying the tax.

"They had to pass it before they would read it," quipped Commissioner Jim Hoppel, referring to the infamous comment attributed to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the Obamacare debate.

All three commissioners are Republicans and not big fans of Obamacare. "If you want to know what's coming, look to Europe," said Commissioner Tim Weigle.

- Donated two 2008 Chevrolet Impala sheriff's cruisers to the Salineville Police Department.

- Approved an application by the Damascus Friends Church to close an unnamed alley next to the church, between Walnut/Church Street and U.S. Route 62. No one showed up for the public hearing in opposition to the request.