Letter: Hartford’s Insurance Change
To the Editor:
It’s troubling to read letters to the editor that claim the Hartford Selectboard has gone back on its word to pay for health insurance for retirees between ages 55 and 65. The only change that has been made for this group is to move them into the health exchange now. All town employees will be there by 2017, at the latest, when Vermont’s single-payer system kicks in. In the meanwhile, the mix of federal and state laws in effect right now do not allow a large employer — and with 105 employees, Hartford meets the definition — to move to the exchange. To put it plainly, the town will be paying for most, and in many cases all, of the premiums the 13 retirees at issue will incur when they select an exchange plan. Furthermore, because federal rules now forbid the kind of health insurance plan the town had, their coverage will be improved. Access to, and out-of-pocket costs for, that coverage? Some of the 13 will like the changes, and some will dislike them. Vermont residents will do well, but then again, Vermonters are also paying an income tax.
Hartford is being forced to pay a health insurance bill that is now roughly double what it was two years ago. This is mainly due to the fact that as an employer with more than 100 employees, the insurers can calculate our premium based only on our employees. If we were smaller, our premium would be calculated based on the state as a whole. Smaller towns saw a modest single-digit increase in premiums for 2014; Hartford was confronted with a 55 percent increase, from around $800,0000 to $1.3 million. If we had been able to put everyone in the exchange, our premium cost would be more in the $900,000 range. By changing insurers we were able to hold the increase to around $350,000, and this includes the approximate $145,000 in premiums we will be paying for the 13 retirees. Again, the coverage in these plans is better because Obamacare regulations no longer allow the kind of plan Hartford offered.
F. X. Flinn