County readies for law
MANISTIQUE – More provisions of the Affordable Care Act will go into effect over the next year, and members of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners are taking a step to ensure they comply with at least one of them. The board voted last week to update and add a waiver form to the county’s current insurance opt-out policy.
According to Schoolcraft County Clerk Dan McKinney, the county currently offers employees an option to receive a cash payment in lieu of receiving the county’s insurance. This is usually done, he explained, when the employee already has insurance from another source.
“Mental health and some other entities were having people prove that they had other medical insurance if they got payment in lieu of medical insurance,” he said. “At the time I thought, ‘Why would we do that?’ Well, it’s a requirement of the health care reform act that we have, on file, proof.”
McKinney explained that Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the county’s insurance provider, compiled a waiver form for employees to fill out if they opt-out of insurance. In addition to this waiver form, the opt-out policy would be updated to explain that the waiver must be filled out before the employee can receive an in lieu of insurance payment.
“That would be a sufficient change to the policy to make sure that we’re covered,” he said.
Commissioner Jerry Zellar asked what would happen if someone refused to fill out the waiver, in particular, union members.
“The union contract is silent on it,” McKinney explained. “So if it’s policy and not in contract, it could be disputed … there’s not that many people, right now, that we have that are taking payment in lieu.”
McKinney said the best the county could do is change the policy and ask employees to fill it out.
Commissioner Craig Reiter questioned whether federal law would “triumph” any dispute an employee may have over filling out the waiver form.
“There’s no federal law that says that they have to fill out the waiver, the federal law says you have to offer them insurance, and we do that,” he said. “But, if they don’t take it and they don’t have any insurance, and we give them money in lieu they could go and try to get insurance from the exchange (Health Insurance Marketplace).
Then we could be subject to a penalty,” he continued. “So this is why we want proof.”
Commissioners voted unanimously to change the policy and require the waiver.