Bill of health: Borough discussing cost of health care reform on Tuesday

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly will be deciding how to deal financially with the federally mandated changes to its health care plan at its meeting Tuesday night.

According to borough estimations, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will cost the borough an additional $230,000 because the law requires health care coverage to include dependent children under the age of 26, as well as mandatory coverage of other services. The borough is adding 35 dependent children to its health care plan.

In order to deal with the mandates from the national bill, the borough hired a temporary employee to help implement the new requirements.

"Due to the increased workload necessary to manage the health insurance program and to ensure compliance with PPACA, the general services department is requesting the temporary position become a permanent one-half time position," a memo from borough Finance Director Craig Chapman states.

The assembly will vote Tuesday on an ordinance to appropriate funding to cover the unbudgeted costs associated with health care as well as deciding if a permanent part-time position is necessary to manage the new health care program.

The cost of the employee through the end of June is approximately $33,655.

Assembly member Linda Murphy, of Soldotna, does not think now is the time for the borough to hire another employee because of the lack of a permanent General Services Director, who deals with personnel issues. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey terminated former General Services Director Bonita Miller and Duane Bannock has stepped in as the acting-director during the search for a new manager.

"The subject of adding permanent positions in this economic climate is, and should be, debatable," Murphy wrote to the assembly in a memo, "I would prefer to have this discussion after we have a new general services director in place and once that new director has had ample time to determine if, in fact, the new position is needed."

Both the borough and school district were sweating the unbudgeted expenditure increases because of the national health care bill after they were implemented earlier this year.

The school district estimates that it will cost $1 million to cover the 154 new dependents it added to its plan.

Murphy will be introducing a substitute ordinance at Tuesday's meeting that only appropriates funding to cover new costs associated with the PPACA.

The ordinance, and Murphy's substitute, will be up for public hearing Tuesday at the assembly's meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the chambers at the George A. Navarre Building.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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