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Mayor vetoes Commission's vote

In a letter sent to commissioners last week, Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch notified the panel that he had decided to veto the County Commission’s 5-4 decision to cut the amount the county funds for employee family health insurance coverage for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
The Commission voted to make the change on July 27. This reversed the panel’s June decision to fund county employees’ family health insurance coverage at the same rate as the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
According to information distributed during the June meeting, for employees opting for family coverage on the PPO plan the monthly cost is $1,393.43 with the county funding up to $1,111.82 and the employee paying $281.61 per month. There were eight employees on this plan during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. For employees choosing family coverage on the high deductible plan the monthly cost is $1,030.30 – all of which is paid by the county. Twelve employees were on this plan during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Voting during the June meeting to supplement employees choosing family coverage at the same rate as the 2014-2015 fiscal year were Gene Wilson, Bridget Peters, Glenn White, Loren Thomas and John Mosley. Voting against the measure were Marie Rice, Kenneth Garland, Walter Garland and Jason Harris.
Following the June meeting, county employees enrolled in insurance coverage with BlueCross BlueShield for the coming fiscal year. During this enrollment, 18 employees opted for family coverage.
At the July 27 meeting, the Commission voted 5-4 to increase what employees with family coverage will pay for insurance. According to discussion during that meeting, county employees who choose family coverage on the PPO plan will pay $873.43 per month. Employees on the high deductible plan will pay $510.30 per month.
Voting in favor of the measure were Harris, Kenneth Garland, Walter Garland, Marie Rice and Gene Wilson. Voting against the measure were Peters, Thomas, Mosley and White.
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Two days later, on July 29, Lynch’s office sent a letter notifying the employees with family coverage that they had until July 31 to decide whether or not they would stay on the county’s plan at the increased rate or find insurance elsewhere.
Lynch’s letter states: “Based on the County Commission’s decision to reduce funding for family medical coverage, employees with family coverage will need to notify (my office) by Friday, July 31, on whether they will drop or continue their family coverage. Employees will also need to complete a change form that identifies which family members are coming off of their plan. … Coverage will end on Friday, July 31, for any dependents who are coming off of the county’s plan.”
This limited time for employees to make their decisions regarding insurance led Lynch to use his veto power.
“It is my understanding that some employees have found insurance,” Lynch said last week. “It is my fear that an employee with a child or a spouse who has a preexisting condition would have a difficult time finding insurance in that time frame.”
Lynch said he consulted with County Attorney Doug Shults regarding using the veto. Shults advised Lynch that a veto of the July 27 insurance vote would stop the termination of employee family insurance coverage as of July 31.
In his letter to the Commissioners, Lynch states: “I am exercising my power to veto the decision made to discontinue funding family health insurance for county employees.
“Upon consulting with our county attorney, I was advised that the employees currently on family health coverage would have to either drop family coverage or pay in excess of $800 per month and make that decision by Friday, July 31. This in essence did not give them adequate time to stop the mark to find another health plan.”
Lynch said the law requires the Commission to consider the veto either 20 days after it is issued or at the governing body’s next regularly scheduled meeting whichever is later.
In this case, Lynch said, the panel’s Aug. 24 meeting will be when the Commission is expected to consider the veto. A majority of the commissioners must approve the veto for it to take effect.
Employees should maintain their family coverage through Aug. 31. After that date, insurance coverage will depend on the events of the Aug. 24 meeting.
“These employees realize that insurance is one of the most important things that they work for,” Lynch said.
He also said he believed the majority of the commissioners were not aware that the employee family insurance coverage would be terminated as quickly.