City Seeks Health Law Consultant

Benwood officials are looking to hire a consultant to help them better understand the provisions of the Affordable Care Act so they can continue to provide free healthcare benefits to their employees.

The consultant is expected to cost the city about $3,500, and Benwood City Council likely will consider the hiring at their next council meeting, according to City Clerk Judy Hunt.

Benwood provides full healthcare coverage to 13 employees, who pay no premiums or deductibles through the city’s agreement with the Health Plan, she said.

But Benwood officials have been told by insurance representatives that because the city has fewer than 51 employees, under Obamacare it can no longer offer the “Cadillac” plan of insurance even though it has the financial means to do so.

Individual plans for employees cost the city $457 per employee per month, with family plans costing $1,371, Hunt said. She added it is expected these rates could increase.

Employees said in past years they opted to forgo wage increases just so they could keep their health insurance packages.

“We can afford it, and we would love to give coverage to our employees.” Mayor Ed Kuca said. “I think having a consultant would be beneficial. He could explain it to us better than anyone else.”

Jason Butcher, spokesman for the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner, said there are no provisions in the health law that prohibit employers from providing “Cadillac” coverage for their employers.

“They can pay it all if they can afford it,” he said of employers paying health insurance premiums.

But information provided by the office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., stated there is a “Cadillac tax” provision. Under the new health law, companies will have to pay an excise tax of 40 percent on plans that cost more than $10,200 annually for an individual or $27,500 for a family.

Hunt, meanwhile, said the issue of employee health care coverage is becoming especially frustrating to small employers and municipalilties and taking up much of the work day.

“I just think the law should be understandable, and that it should be written so that we as taxpayers should be able to understand exactly what is in the bill,” she said.

Benwood City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday.