By RACHAEL LONG
In a time when access to affordable health care is a growing concern for many Americans, Nolensville town leaders are taking steps to ensure continued access to coverage for retired employees.
On Thursday night, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted in favor of approving a resolution that would allow the town to “opt in” on a provision for health insurance coverage access for eligible retirees of the local government.
Even with the unanimous decision, there was some discussion about what constituted an “eligible” employee.
As discovered by members of the town staff, an employee is eligible for the provision at the age of 60 or with 30 years of service. Town Attorney Bob Notestine said — based on brief mid-meeting research which would need to be more fully investigated — there also appeared to be an early retirement option of 55 years, for which the benefits may be reduced.
In other words, if approved, the resolution would simply allow government retirees to continue on the town’s group insurance plan until age 65, when they become eligible for Medicare.
It would allow retirees to maintain the same coverage, the same plans and the same providers they are used to without having to seek private, possibly less affordable health insurance.
Finance Department head Julie Wilson explained that choosing to opt in for the provision does not equate a financial liability for the town.
“We don’t have an actual obligation to pay for anything,” Wilson said. “We just have to recognize the liability, and the liability arises because it’s an implied discount.”
Wilson informed town leaders that they are able to review the provision and choose to opt out every fiscal year. If leaders decided to opt out now, however, the town would not be unable to opt-in in the future.
Wilson said no retirees are currently enrolled in the plan, but 18 active employees are eligible.
Some concerns arose among aldermen that opting in could potentially cause an increase in the group plan.
For Vice Mayor Jason Patrick, the possible benefits opting in would be to the employees seemed to outweigh any potential inconveniences it may cause.
“Health care is a very serious issue for those approaching or in retirement…figuring out how to fund that gap to get them to Medicare, if they are in a position where they can retire early, I see that as a benefit that I don’t see as a cost to us that would be prohibitive.”