Bel Aire says health care law is forcing its employees to pay more for insurance

By: Phil White Email
By: Phil White Email

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BEL AIRE, Kan. -- Employees of a Kansas town are among those whose frustration President Barack Obama tried to quell Thursday when he announced policy changes that would allow insurance companies to keep clients on plans that do not meet federal standards.

The City of Bel Aire learned a few weeks ago the health insurance plan it provides its employees will no longer be offered because it does not meet the new requirements.

"We're not being dropped because there are other options that are out there," said Bel Aire Mayor David Austin. "We spoke to a couple of other companies and found another plan, but it's still going to cost more."

Austin and Bel Aire City Manager Ty Lasher say they are frustrated the city has had to find a new health insurance plan for its employees. Bel Aire, Austin said, tries to offer an attractive benefits package.

"With our budget, we have cut down," he said. "We are constantly asking our employees to do more with less and they always do. We want to take care of them."

However, Blue Cross Blue Shield recently told the city its group insurance plan would no longer be offered because it didn't meet new federal rules.

"The other plan that they proposed that was most comparable that they could find doubled premiums, doubled co-pays, quadrupled deductibles," Austin said.

Lasher, the city manager, said because the city only has 28 full-time employees and six part-time employees, it no longer qualified for a group plan.

He said for employees in their 20s, premiums increased only slightly. Premiums nearly doubled, though, for employees in their 50s.

"It's really hard to go to employees and tell them, 'Sorry. We're going to give you worse insurance and charge you more for it,'" Lasher said.

Bel Aire was able to find similar group coverage through another provider.

"The bottom line is, it still will cost a little bit more and the city will eat some of it and the employee will eat some of it," Austin said.

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