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July 19, 2013

Otsego tallies costs of new health law

COOPERSTOWN — The decision by President Barack Obama to delay implementing part of the Affordable Health Care Act will spare Otsego County government from having to spend an additional “several hundred thousand dollars” for the employees who currently don’t have health care coverage, officials said Thursday.

That’s the good news, in the view of Russ Bachman, the county’s acting treasurer.

The bad news, he added, is that the county will have to come up with an estimated $96,831 in 2014 to pay for one part of the program that is not being delayed — a so-called reinsurance fee for each individual covered by county medical benefits.

That sum is based on the fact that the fee amounts to $63 for each of the 1,537 people currently covered by the Otsego County medical benefits plan.

Out of the current county workforce of 780 employees, 546 workers are enrolled in the county health care plan. Given that many workers choose to cover their spouse and children, those 546 policies cover those 1,537 people, according to Bachman and Rose Laraby, a Treasurer’s Office staffer.

The reinsurance fee was designed to help stabilize premiums in the individual health insurance market for those with pre-existing conditions It will be effective from 2014 through 2016 — although Bachman envisions it could stick around longer than that. He noted the government often finds ways to keep funding streams alive even after they were intended to sunset out of existence.

Precisely how the county will come up with the nearly $100,000 that will be needed to cover the reinsurance fee is a question that the county Board of Representatives, along with the Treasurer’s office, will have to tackle when budget planning begins in earnest later this year.

Bachman is filling in now for County Treasurer Dan Crowell, who is expected to assist the representatives in putting the finishing touches on the spending blueprint when he returns from his military deployment this fall.

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