Town solicits help in decoding Obamacare

By GERARD NOLAN

Eastchester officials plan to hire a consulting firm to determine the costs of implementing the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, for town employees’ health insurance plans as more of the law’s provisions are gradually rolled out in the coming months.

The decision came at the urging of Comptroller Dawn Donovan, who advised the Town Council that understanding the costs of implementing the law would help in formulating the budget for the next fiscal year. The board unanimously passed a measure to hire First Niagra Benefits Consulting for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.Picture 1

“We are looking to start it off on the right foot and, hopefully, it will be a benefit to us and our employees and prevent us from spending money unnecessarily,” Councilman Luigi Marcoccia, a Republican, said. “We have to see how the changes and what’s been proposed is going to affect our plans…and how it affects our employees.”

The healthcare legislation, which President Obama signed into law more than three years ago, is notoriously complex. Understanding Obamacare legislation poses challenges to employers, employees as well as state and local governments.

The consulting services will cost the town $18,000 a year, or $4,500 per quarter. Supervisor Anthony Colavita, a Republican, said the town reserves the right to cancel the agreement if it feels it’s not getting its money’s worth.The town budgeted $925,000 for health and dental insurance for 2013.

While the cost is hefty, town officials believe it’s the best option.

“I think it’s quite necessary,” Colavita said. “There are many attorneys [on the town board] and nobody, and I mean that without jest, nobody can figure what the hell this thing says.”

Retaining the firm will put Eastchester ahead of the curve, according to Councilman Fred Salanitro, a Republican. Being proactive, he said, will keep the town from unwittingly running afoul of the act, which could lead to fines. He thinks this approach could provide the town with a net savings.

“The fear is that we’re supposed to be doing something and we’re not,” Salanitro said. “We don’t want to face any penalty. We definitely want to be in the forefront of trying to decipher what it is we need to do.”

Salanitro made an assurance that the town will only retain the firm “as long as we need them.”

“We won’t spend money needlessly,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act’s implementation seems to constantly be undergoing tweaks, Colavita said. But the supervisor expressed a sense of urgency.

“The terms of Obamacare are still changing,” he said. “We really need to do this in terms of evaluating our budget.”

The town is yet to respond to a Freedom of Information Law request for 2013 payroll records for Eastchester employees submitted by The Town Report back in July.