December 3, 2013

Dalton City Council: Obamacare drives up health costs

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— Dalton city employees will see their insurance premiums increase slightly next year due to the new health care law.

The City Council voted 3-0 Monday to renew its agreement with Alliant Health Plans to administer its health insurance program. The plan covers approximately 1,600 city employees and their family members.

Council member George Sadosuk recused himself because he is on Alliant’s board, and Mayor David Pennington generally votes to break ties.

Under the agreement, premiums increased by $36,872 to $1.8 million, or roughly 2 percent. That only includes those city employees covered by the general budget and does not include Dalton Utilities employees or those employed by independent agencies under contract with the city.

In addition to the higher premiums, city officials say they will face an additional $81,000 in new fees imposed by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

“One of those fees is a PCORI fee, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute,” said Human Resources Director Greg Batts. “The government has set that up supposedly to help find best practices. To fund that, they charge every single health plan $2 per covered life per year. That’s just one of the new fees.”

All told, in 2014, employees will pay $401 for single coverage (up 2.3 percent from 2013), $838 for single plus one (up 1.8 percent) and $1,243 for family coverage (up 1.9 percent). They will also see their deductibles increase to $1,000 from $500.

The council also voted 4-0 to:

• Change the intersection of Helton Street and Knox Street to an all-way stop from a two-way stop along Helton. The public works department will install stop signs, advance warning signs and pavement markings on Knox Street. Public Works Director Benny Dunn said the work would begin as soon as weather permits.

• Approve an agreement with the Georgia Department of Transportation to install decorative mast arms and poles at the intersection of the Dalton bypass and Willowdale Road. The estimated cost to the city is $15,000, which will be covered by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds.

• Apply for $304,980 in Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) grant funds from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. The funds will be used to bring the houses of eight elderly, low-income homeowners up to code standards.

• Approve an agreement with Gilbert + Associates of Lawrenceville to administer the CHIP grant. The firm will be paid a lump sum of $6,000 plus $1,500 per unit.

• Approve an amendment to the 2013 budget that, among other things, adds $75,000 to match a grant received to further refurbish the Crescent City train car, which stands next to the old freight depot. Kathryn Sellers, a member of Friends of the Crescent City, briefed the council on plans to renovate the car and make it a meeting place.

• Approve several alcohol license applications and renewals for 2014 as well as several appointments to various city boards.