County worried about healthcare reform

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Justin Jones

CRITTENDEN COUNTY, Ky. - The Affordable Care Act mandates many employers must provide employee health insurance and local government is no exception.

Crittenden County, Kentucky does not offer health insurance to its employees.  In fact, they're the only county in Kentucky that doesn't but because of the new healthcare law, local leaders and taxpayers face some very difficult decisions.

Last year, the county enacted a half percent occupational tax that should cover some of the cost, but the county will have to raise taxes or make cuts to pay for the rest.  The county is considering pulling the plug on paving projects, reducing the recycling and convenience center hours of operation and cutting back on mowing projects.

Crittenden County Judge Executive Perry Newcom said his county doesn't provide health insurance for its employees, not because the county is cheap, but because they simply cannot afford it. 

"We're an extremely small and rural county and just haven't had the funds available," Newcom said.

But under the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March of 2010,  employers with more than 50 full-time workers must offer health insurance starting next year.

"There's just no funding provided to help you cover it at all," Newcom said.

Newcom said he'll be forced to find funding somewhere.

The county surveyed all 80 employees and 49 of them said they wanted the health insurance.  Newcom estimates that'll cost the county about $200,000 dollars a year.

But how do you pay for it?

Newcom plans on taking that question to the people through a series of public forums.

People Local 6 asked didn't have any solutions.

But the decision must be made before the start of the fiscal year in July.  As a county employee, Secretary Shelly Cullen doesn't have the answers either, but she's happy the insurance will finally be available.

"It's hard enough when you do have insurance, if you don't it's almost impossible," Cullen said.

Newcom said if the county didn't provide the insurance they'd be fined $100,000 a year, but they are not considering that as an option.

Dates for the series of public meetings have not been set.

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