Squires hear healthcare law overview, listen to walking path opposition

Posted September 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm

Clinton County Fiscal Court, meeting in the absence of Judge/Executive Lyle Huff, held its regular monthly meeting–at its regular scheduled 5 p.m. time–last Thursday, September 19. Five of the six magistrates were present for the 45-minute session, which was chaired by Magistrate Mickey Riddle.

Judge Huff had a previously scheduled meeting to attend, that being the annual meeting of the Lake Cumberland Area Development District Board of Directors, that met at 6 p.m. on the same date at Lake Cumberland State Park. The judge elected to go ahead and leave the regular court meeting as scheduled.

After approving the treasurer’s report and fund transfers, as well as voting to pay claims and bills, the court heard from insurance representative Grady Wilson, with his presentation pertaining to the new healthcare laws taking up the majority of the meeting.

Wilson, who had talked with other departments of the county throughout the day about the issue, including emergency services and the jail, gave the court an “overview” of the Healthcare Reform Act, that will take effect on January 1. Discussion basically centered around how it would affect county employees, the county budget and the few options employers seem to have to adhere.

Although most of the information Wilson relayed to the court was nothing new, he noted the overview was necessary because the new laws associated with the Affordable Health Care Act is now just months away from taking affect, and will also give the court its options prior to the current health care coverage for county employees expiring at the end of next March.

Wilson said that most of the changes in healthcare reform, as far as employers, will deal with larger groups, or those who employ 50 or more people. Although only around 40 county employees have health insurance, over 60 are actually eligible, he noted.

Wilson also discussed employer mandates under the new act as well as penalties that will be imposed on employers and even individuals who opt not to purchase or join a health care system or one of the upcoming exchanges which will be set up to offer affordable health insurance to individuals.

There was also a lot of discussion about persons not considered full-time being exempt from their employers not having to offer health insurance. On that point, Wilson warned the court to begin looking at employees who work around or just over the 30 hour per week mark.

Magistrate Riddle also noted, as he had in previous meetings, that the country was leaning more to just offering part-time work to get around the new healthcare reform mandates.

Should the county deem it unfeasible to offer health care insurance to county employees if the rates keep rising, they would also have the option that apparently several other businesses plan to take–simply pay a $2,000 per employee penalty in lieu of having to pay for group coverage.

However, Wilson said that figure ($2,000) would likely increase in the future. There are also penalties on individuals who do not purchase some type of health care coverage beginning in 2014, that being withholding one percent of an individual’s and 2.85 percent of a couple’s or families’ gross income, out of their federal taxes. Again, Wilson said that those penalty percentages would likely increase in years to come as well.

According to Wilson, what is considered affordable health coverage, mandated in the healthcare act, along with coverage that provides adequate insurance, is that the cost per employee or individual would be less than nine and-a-half percent of their total gross income.

Although President Obama has suspended penalties on businesses for the first year, it was noted that by 2015, those same penalties would probably be even higher.

Magistrate Ricky Craig also said it was sad when people have to see local family doctor’s close their doors due to the new mandates. Some states, including Kentucky, has opted to take the medicaid expansion aspect of the healthcare act, while several other states have opted out saying it would be unaffordable to their states.

Wilson, in concluding his overview, said the question is asked “Who is paying for the new healthcare reform?” and he answered his own question by saying, “You and I,” noting that most insurance companies, in turn, will add on costs to employers who offer groups insurance.

Following Wilson’s presentation, the court turned to other issues on the agenda.

Magistrate Patty Guinn made a motion to approve documents related to a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to advance funding construction of the Ewing Branch Bridge. The motion passed by unanimous vote.

When Magistrate Riddle opened the floor for public comment, a couple of residents took issue with a proposal now in the works to purchase property in the Wells Bottom area, through a land grant program, that would be used for a nature preserve type area.

Gilbert Beaty questioned the court as to why a walking trail was needed and inferred the county may be looking at having to build bathrooms or spending a lot of money on the project.

Another resident, Jack Stonecipher, was a little more adamant to his opposition to the project, asking why should anyone travel 17 or 18 miles when they can go to the park and walk?

Magistrate Riddle, who was absent for the meeting in which the court voted to proceed with the project in its initial stages, including an appraisal of the property in question, said he was unaware of the project even being initiated until after it had been presented. Most other magistrates concurred, saying they hadn’t heard about the project until recently when it was formally presented at a recent fiscal court meeting. They also said the project was apparently initiated by the judge/executive.

Stonecipher said he believed “there was a lot of cutting and drying going on,” and that the project should have been squashed before it got started, adding the project would be like building a bridge going to nowhere. He said further that anyone for it was not representing the people.

He made several other comments during the discussion and also mentioned a few other people by name, including the property owners of Campbell Branch, LLC, which is being considered for purchase for the project

“I don’t know when it’s going to be voted on,” he concluded, “but I’ll be here to oppose it.” Stonecipher said.

Just prior to adjournment, the court entered into a less than five-minute closed session on personnel but took no action upon returning to open session.

Following the meeting, Magistrate Riddle supplied a list of roads that will receive some type of repairs from the most recent Department of Transportation FLEX funding for Clinton County.

There will be a few roads in each magisterial district that will receive some type of repairs, but due to limited funds, no one project, or road, will receive more than $30,000 in expenditures from the $135,606 that is available.

The following roads were listed:

Haddix Road (District One); Gray-Savage Road and Hubbard Road (District Two); McKinley Guffey Road (District Three); Malone Ridge Road, Blue Ridge Road and Carmel Lane Road (District Four); W.G. Brown Road and Phillips Road (District Five); Churntop Road and Means Road (District Six).

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for Thursday, October 17 at 5 p.m. and is open to the general public.