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Most towns don't reimburse benefits

January 27, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Most Washington County municipalities don't reimburse employees who opt out of their health insurance plan, officials said this week.

At least two municipalities - Hancock and Hagerstown - do offer that choice.

Hancock employees who choose not to receive health insurance provided by the town are given monthly checks that cover what they would pay if they had the insurance. As of July 1, 2001, the health insurance premium was $251 a month.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy and Councilman David Smith said Friday the practice is common among businesses. Councilman Darwin Mills said the policy costs the town about $15,000 a year.

Hagerstown reimburses employees $20 a week, which is included in their paychecks. That amounts to a total of $2,946 a month, city Human Resources Specialist Beth Maroney said.

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Maroney said 34 employees elect to not enroll in the city's health insurance plan and receive the extra $20 in their checks.

Washington County Human Resources Director Alan Davis did not return phone calls Thursday or Friday.

Officials from Williamsport, Boonsboro, Funkstown and Smithsburg said those towns do not offer the option.

Funkstown Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said the town pays for health insurance for all of its employees and none has chosen to opt out.

"If they opt out, there's no adjustment in compensation," Boonsboro Town Manager John Kendall said of that town's policy.

Murphy said Hancock's policy is fair because all employees are receiving a benefit, whether it be health insurance coverage or checks that represent what the cost to the town would have been.

He also said it allows employees who have better coverage to stay with that plan.

"It basically allows them to have better insurance than a small town has for them," Murphy said.

Employees must show proof that they have other health insurance, Murphy said.

"It's not like they can say, "We don't want health insurance so we can get paid,' " Murphy said.

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