There had been little local activity in the state’s new insurance exchange program, when Health & Human Services Director Nancy Dahlin gave her monthly department update to the County Board last week. The healthcare plan enrollment window had just opened the day before the county board meeting. If you are seeking a healthcare insurance plan, your choice for enrollment ideally should be done by the end of this year. If you haven’t selected some form of healthcare provider plan by the end of 2013, and are not in a company-based plan or have another insurance provider, you will begin to be assessed a state penalty. (See MnSURE basics commentary on page 3.)
Director Dahlin reminded the county commissioners that they had authorized hiring five employees to handle the expected enrollment traffic, but as of last week just two were on payroll. HHS officials are participating in conference calls with state insurance exchange officials weekly, and “roll out issues” are being discussed, Dahlin added. Chisago County has experienced none of the technical glitches attributed to other programs in that first week of the exchange availability; but then, only three people here were placed into plans by the time Dahlin was at the County Board meeting. Other changes.... Health care is also in revision mode for people who are on Medicaid supported services, at places like developmental group homes, adult foster care, etc.
Dahlin said rates are being re-worked so the commissioners should expect to get some phone calls on “variances” in rate payouts for programs like these. There are 240 cases in this program and all are being entered manually into a new framework, she explained. The Medicaid federal funding stream for this population is being monitored closely at the county level, so local costs are minimized. The federal government shutdown was in its first days. and Dahlin reported that even if the shutdown goes through October, she doesn’t expect many problems from lapse of federal funding. If the shutdown were to last for weeks, however, nutrition programs for the poor, for infants and for the elderly are primarily vulnerable to cash flow issues, she noted. On the topic of cash-- the county finalized an agreement with a tax delinquent property owner that will net the county $288,000 in unpaid taxes. A large tract of ag land near the interchange at I-35 and #17 in Lent Township, went into a state trust as forfeiture. Previous owner Thomas B Griffith agrees now to pay
14 years of taxes (1999-2013) so he can repurchase the property. The payment of back taxes will be made in 30 days, according to the application accepted by the Board 5-0. County Auditor Dennis Freed also reported that other tax forfeit parcels are being moved off the tax books...with some parcels offered to adjoining property owners because they are landlocked, and some will be on the county’s public bid notice being published shortly. Two more “flowage easements” were acquired in connection to the Lake Improvement District chain of lakes lowering system.
One for Craig and Lynn Strand at $50,000 and one for Felicity Miel-Crosby and Scott Crosby for $3,500 were on the agenda. Land gets inundated with water when lake levels are rising and the drawdown flows out of the chain of lakes into an area between Ivywood Rd and Karmel Ave, north of Hwy. 8. The county commissioners had okayed using condemnation if easements didn’t start to get resolved; at this time only two easements are still contested of 11 parcels involved in the flowage territory. A pay equity review and recent grade enhancement of a male-dominated job in public works, has affected two positions in female-dominant categories. County Administrator Bruce Messelt said in order to meet laws governing pay equity, the county should increase the grade of Human Resources Director and First Assistant County Attorney from 29 to Grade 30.
Messelt said employees are allowed to “challenge” their pay grade and have it reviewed, but in this case the adjustment is to align the pay scales to meet new county pay ranges allowed in the law. Pay equity can be forced upon the county if there are job wage scales outside the charted norm. The Board okayed the grade increase for the two positions 5-0.