published Monday, December 5th, 2011

Marion County delays vote on insurance

By Ryan Lewis/Correspondent
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    Kimball City Attorney and Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger
    Ryan Lewis

JASPER, Tenn. -- For the second straight month, Marion County commissioners have delayed a vote on offering county employees state-sponsored long-term care insurance.

The optional insurance would go into effect when someone needs long-term care or assistance such as assisted living, nursing-home care or at-home care, officials said.

When the matter was first discussed in October, board members decided to table the issue until they could get some more detailed information.

At last week's November meeting, the vote was delayed again be-cause commissioners said there were still too many unanswered questions.

Marion County Mayor John Graham said he discussed the insurance recently with city officials in Kimball, Tenn., because their board voted to offer the insurance to its employees in October.

He discovered that the county might not have the technology available to fufill its requirements in offering the insurance.

"If [the county] enters into this, the transfer of funds must be done electronically," he said. "With our system of booking in the county, we don't have that."

Even though it doesn't cost the county anything to offer the insurance to its employees, Graham said, there would be a potential cost attached to acquiring and installing that technology.

Graham said the county doesn't offer its employees direct deposits "or anything of that nature" and he isn't sure how much setting up a wire transfer system would cost.

"I don't think you really know until you enter into the contract and find out who the provider is exactly how we would do that wire transfer," he said.

Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger said he also needed more answers.

"The only thing I would be a little cautious about is if the state required [the county] to purchase and install new software that would be compatible with their program," Gouger said.

Board members said they must have that answer before the issue can move forward.

"I'm hesitant to say 'yes' because we don't know the potential cost of this thing," Commissioner Gene Hargis said.

Graham apologized to the board for not having all of the information they wanted and said he "could have been more diligent in getting that [information] out to [the board]."

Commissioner Jane Dawkins said she isn't sure if the county will miss any type of enrollment period because of the delays.

Regardless, Dawkins said the county needs to look into setting up electronic transfers anyway because "we are behind the times."

The board is expected to reconsider the issue at its Jan. 23 meeting.

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.

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