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Commissioners concerned about employee health insurance costs

PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (Oct. 15, 2015) — County Commissioners continue to be concerned over insurance plans and how the county can avoid facing federal fines for not providing adequate insurance.

At a previous commission meeting, the commissioners learned that under the rules of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, employers the size of Pulaski County with between 50 and 100 employees will soon have to provide insurance to employees which is considered “affordable” to those employees. That means the total premium cost charged to the lowest-paid eligible county employee cannot exceed 9.65 percent of that employees total gross pay, or that employee will be allowed to use the health insurance marketplace to find insurance. If that happens, the county will be charged $3,000.

“If we don't meet the requirements, we're fined $3,000 times 90 employees, or whatever we've got,” said Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink.

“They're just looking for a way to fine you,” said Presiding Commissioner Gene Newkirk.

Zweerink said he's hearing on national news that the premiums for Medicare will double in 2017.

“Old folks will be devastated; they won't be able to pay it,” Zweerink said. While commissioners said they’re facing a financial disaster due to insurance, the county’s emergency management director, Lawson Smith, said commissioners need to prepare for a different kind of disaster as well.

Missouri is in the New Madrid Fault earthquake zone, and due to its proximity to the zone and the presence of the Army Engineer School at Fort Leonard Wood, Pulaski County is a designated staging area for earthquake disaster relief should another earthquake hit the Missouri bootheel area comparable to what struck New Madrid in the early 1800s.

Today was a drill day for earthquakes, and Smith asked commissioners to consider what that means for the county.

“The issue I had to ask you about, which is straight from my heart, is the hazard mitigation plan we adopted five years ago is up for renewal this month,” Smith said, noting that the LEPC (local emergency planning committee) will meet on Monday and inviting commissioners to attend.

Zweerink advised Smith that upcoming work on Riddle Road by the former location of The Cave Restaurant has been posted on the Pulaski County, MO Commission/Road & Bridge Facebook page, and asked Smith to make sure local emergency responders are aware of the issue.

In other business, Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long presented awards to one of his detectives and one of his sergeants for their role investigating numerous criminal rings in the county and also assisting on homicide investigations.

“They're just killing the burglars around here, not physically but legally,” Long said.

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