Northampton County employees will be spared dramatic increases in health care costs next year that had recently been proposed by County Executive John Stoffa to fend off stiff penalties the county could face under Obamacare.
Stoffa’s decision to back off on the planned increases was applauded Thursday night by Justus James, a representative of District Council 88, AFSCME, who spoke briefly before Northampton County Council Thursday night.
Stoffa, who is leaving office later this year, had previously said changes were needed to the county’s insurance because it had been deemed a “Cadillac plan” under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.
Unless changes were made, Stoffa had explained, the county would face stiff tax penalties, ranging from $934,000 in 2018 to $28 million by 2020.
Stoffa, in an email sent Tuesday to county council, said he had second thoughts about the changes he intended for the county’s 1,500 employees.
James, the union representative, said he was glad he did. Otherwise, county workers would have been hit hard. Workers who currently pay $250 per person to $500 for a family deductible could see increases to $2,500 for one person and $4,000 for a family, he said. In addition, there would have been a 10 percent co-insurance payment on “numerous procedures,” he said. All told, he said, it could have added up to “about a $5,000 hit next year.”
Instead of implementing those changes, Stoffa said he decided to delay for a year any changes, which will come after he leaves office, and to appoint a committee to study the problem.
Stoffa said he will spend the remaining time in office working with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) to advocate for changes in the law, specifically the threshold for "Cadillac plans" or to eliminate the provision.
“It is unfair that employers who try to reward their employees with good health care coverage would be penalized for doing so,” Stoffa wrote to county council. “County employment, like most public service, does not provide big salaries, bonuses or other incentives.
Stoffa said county workers have “tolerated and understood our need to limit pay increases due to tight budgets, and the need for them to contribute higher percentages of their pay for quality health care coverage. However, a 900% increase for some employees but not for all employees, (this would not apply to all unions) in their co-insurance contributions in 2014, is not the answer to the problem we are facing with the ACA.”
Stoffa said Northampton should work with other counties and the unions representing our employees, to facilitate changes in Obamacare.