By Heather WagnerA presentation by Texas Association of Counties representatives on Monday gave Llano County Commissioners a snapshot of what to expect as they move into the next few fiscal years and how the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is widely known could affect the County. 

Ernesto Martinez and Mark Zollitsch gave a presentation to the Court, outlining what counties could expect in the coming years. Provisions that became effective for plan years beginning on or before January 1, 2014 include a no-existing condition waiting period, meaning that health plans cannot require that new enrollees wait for treatment of a pre-existing condition; a maximum wait period of 90 days for new employees to become eligible to utilize the company’s health plan, (Llano County currently has a 60-day wait), and a wellness program. 

Currently, Llano County’s health plan meets all requirements because it is a grandfathered plan, or one that was in place as of March 25, 2010. However, because of the looming Excise Tax, also known as the Cadillac Tax, Llano County may need to forfeit its grandfather status in order to avoid paying the hefty tax, which could amount to as much as $73,000 in 2018 when the tax goes into effect. 

The tax, which is meant to discourage counties from having ‘too rich’ insurance plans, is levied at 40 percent of the amount over the maximum cost threshold of $10,200 paid by the county per employee per year. Currently, the county pays about $684, but using predictive formulas, it is possible that Llano County could exceed $850 per month, or the $10,200. 

In addition to examining plan offerings that could help the county save money, Martinez and Zollitsch told the Commissioners that TAC could help the county explore other options to help reduce costs, including lowering usage through wellness plans, and lowering cost by encouraging wise usage. Having physicals and staying on top of one’s health can help prevent ‘catastrophic claims’ by helping to catch disease early. Encouraging wellness, including smoking cessation help and fitness, can help keep employees well

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