County health board sees bottom line struggle based on insurance costs

LISBON – The Columbiana County Board of Health ended the year in the black again, but changes in health care laws may result in that becoming more and more difficult.

Board member Dr. Jack Amato on Wednesday questioned Fiscal Officer Cis Donahey about how the Affordable Care Act will affect the department’s bottom line in the future. Donahey noted while the board’s decision to purchase health insurance for employees through December 2014 helps lock them in for a rate this year, there are other fees which could fluctuate. Beyond next December, Donahey said it is difficult to tell what will occur.

Health Commissioner Wes Vins noted it makes the budgeting process more difficult and health insurance may be the one thing left to the very last in the next budget, until Donahey can get a better handle on how much the department will be affected.

Amato said he had heard if younger adults do not sign up, 2015 premiums will increase for everyone. “If we get hammered, that’s when it will be,” Amato added.

Another issue concerning the health department are the new sanitation rules being created by the Ohio Department of Health. With the deadline passing on Dec. 12 for comment on the rules, Environmental Director Lori Barnes said she forwarded about 29 comments the health department received to the state.

Vins said he also made some comments about his concerns, including that if the new rules are approved in the spring of 2014, he believes they should be implemented no sooner than Jan. 1, 2015.

“This extended time frame is necessary for local health departments to establish local board of health programs, policies and fees,” Vins wrote in his comments. Vins added health departments may need to have multiple public readings in order to comply. Staff will need to be trained and contractors will need to be educated.

Vins noted the new regulations are 131 pages long, instead of 27 pages in the current regulations written in 1977.

“Great care must be exercised in the initial implementation of the rules, due to the public perception of a government’s expansion of power and increased costs to families in the absence of a public health emergency or waterborne disease outbreak,” he wrote.

Vins said he also forwarded his comments to state-level politicians, noting when people are unhappy with the new regulations being proposed, those politicians will probably be the ones receiving calls.

In other matters:

– The board voted to take action against Robert Marshall, state Route 172, Lisbon, who Barnes said has been warned several times about the open dumping and burning of solid waste on his property with no action taken to improve the situation.

– The board approved an agreement with Carroll County to provide a sanitarian for each other in the event of an emergency.

– The board approved a contract with the state health department which allows the department to utilize the Trinity Health System to help more women get needed tests for cervical cancer and follow-up tests for an abnormal mammogram screening.

-Bob Zehentbauer, coordinator of public health emergency preparedness in the county, reported he recently attended a mass casualty conference in Shaker Heights. The free program included a speaker from Israel, where everyone is in the military during their life and ready for the many casualties which can happen. Zehentbauer said the speaker’s way of handling these issues show how far behind most Americans are to preparing for mass casualties. The conference was mainly attended by members of police and fire departments.