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Hector town board 12/1/09

Meeting: The town of Hector held an extra regular board meeting in the town hall Tuesday, Dec. 1 in Reynoldsville, for one hour and 55 minutes.
Attendance: All board members were present. Four members of the public and Schuyler County Administrator Timothy O’Hearn attended.
Action: board unanimously approved the sale of an old computer for $50 to an employee who was willing to work on it and make it serviceable.
Discussion without action: The primary purpose of this extra meeting was to discuss employee health plan options presented to the board by Broker, Charles Campbell. The town needs to make a decision very soon whether to stay with the county health plan purchasing consortium or contract for its own coverage, effective Jan. 1, 2010. Action was deferred to the regularly scheduled monthly meeting Tuesday, Dec. 8.
• The plan presented is a high deductible health plan (HDHP) connected to an income tax-favored health savings account (HSA). The town is considering a plan design in which it would fund the full deductible for employees every year in the HSA, leaving the employee with an HSA debit card to handle the high deductible in a fairly simple plan design run by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. The theory is that since the money in the HSA immediately becomes the property of the employee, there will be a reluctance to spend their own money on care that may not be necessary, keeping the costs down for town and employees and their families. These types of plans are rapidly gaining in popularity around the nation among small and large employers.
• Campbell reviewed the workings of the plan, especially the HSA. He addressed a series of prepared questions and took board questions seeking clarification of many aspects of the plan.
• Janine Bond, the HR generalist for the town, reminded the board of the savings for the town of approximately $100,000 per year over the county consortium price the town was currently projected to pay in 2010.
• O’Hearn praised the board for investigating health plan alternatives that would save employees’ and taxpayers’ money in these tight times. He suggested the town further investigate an alternative arrangement, health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), which have the potential, in his view, of saving the town even more money. With HRAs, the town retains ownership of the funds, unlike HSAs in which the employee immediately owns the funds upon deposit. Blue Cross/Blue Shield does not offer HRAs with HDHPs, so the underlying health insurance plan would cost considerably more.
• Bond also reviewed plans the town is considering for replacement of the dental and vision plans currently contracted through the county consortium.
• Supervisor Ben Dickens then turned the board’s attention to the potential need for a special ambulance district for town residents who are served by the Trumansburg Fire Department and EMS. Trumansburg is currently debating an arrangement whereby the EMS would bill residents who have health insurance for emergency calls and not bill residents who have no health plan coverage for ambulance services. Billing would provide a substantial part of the budget for services, but the remaining costs would be covered by uniform property taxation of people in the fire district. Dickens announced that the town’s lawyer advises that the town is not legally able to tax residents for ambulance services without first conducting a referendum to create a special ambulance district. Trumansburg wants to start billing July 1, 2010, but the town would not be able to conduct a referendum to create a special district until the November general election. board members agreed that more discussion would be needed between Hector and the Trumansburg officials.
Upcoming meeting: The next regular meeting was held Tuesday Dec. 8, 2009 at the town hall beginning at 7 p.m.

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