Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 19, 2013

Further local impacts of Obamacare

By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express

---- — As reported last week, fees associated with the “Affordable” Care Act, also known as Obamacare, will cost $62,244 for those covered by Marion County’s health insurance plan. Though several questions remain regarding the rules and impact this legislation will have on other entities, more money will be leaving taxpayer-funded coffers to cover fees.

“The (City of Knoxville’s) Transitional Reinsurance Fee would be $5.25 per member per month and the Annual Health Insurance Fee will be $7-9/month/person,” City Manager Harold Stewart said. “The City insures 117 members, so that equates to approximately $19,000 in fees each year. This is prior to any increases due to claims history.”

As per the contract negotiated with the Union the City of Knoxville picks up all of these costs. Stewart added that the plan is being evaluated to see if the coverage is considered a “Cadillac Plan,” which could further subject the insured to punitive fees.

“We are in the process of discussing these added fees in negotiations with our unions so a lot of it has not been resolved yet,” Melcher-Dallas Schools Superintendent Delane Galvin said. “We have been notified that our insurance premium rates went up a record low amount (less than 2 percent). I think we are all muddling through interpreting what the charges will be and who will be paying.”

The Transitional Insurance Fee only has an impact on companies who self-fund their insurance plans. the Knoxville School District is not self-funded, according to Superintendent Randy Flack.

“The Annual Health Insurance Fee, when implemented, is a $1 per insured fee that is paid to the federal government. It is paid by the insurance company. We realize that small fee will probably be reflected in premium costs,” Flack added. Knoxville Schools has 550 insured people. Premiums for 2013-14 have not been determined.

The City of Pleasantville has six people on its health insurance plan, according to City Manager Joe Mrstik. Pleasantville uses Wellmark, the same insurer for Marion County.

“Rates have continued to go up and the City absorbs the cost increase,” Mrstik added.

“In 2014 we are looking at a 2-3 percent increase in health insurance cost before we even get any quotes on the actual cost of insurance,” Stewart said. “If the City were to participate in an Exchange (State/Federal) we wouldn’t be subject to these fees.”

Knoxville insures 117. Stewart said good management of the policy, and efficient use of the coverage by employees, led to no increase in health insurance this year when the policy was renewed.

“Right now the only increases for the future are the Federal health care implemented fees,” Stewart said. “It is likely that when the policy is renewed next year there may be an increase in coverage based on claims history.”

“We really aren’t sure what the final rules regarding the Affordable Health Care Act, or when they will take effect,” Flack said. “All rules have not been determined so there is some thought that the effective dates could be delayed. We won’t know if there are additional fees, or when they will be enforced, until all rules have been written.”

The incomplete rules are not only impacting government entities. Private sector businesses have been, and will continue to evaluate what impact the legislation will have on them.

“Pella Corporation is awaiting the essential information from the government about Affordable Care Act specifics, so we can continue to review the impact that new regulations associated it will likely have, and how that will impact those covered on our plan,” Kathy Krafka-Harkema with Pella Corporation said.

“I’m sure we’ll be reviewing many impacts resulting from evolving healthcare legislation over the coming year,” Teri Vos with Vermeer reported. She said answers are not available at this time.