The Phelps County Commission Thursday was asked to consider a proposal that would offer health insurance coverage to only employees when the county renews its plan for next year.

The Phelps County Commission Thursday was asked to consider a proposal that would offer health insurance coverage to only employees when the county renews its plan for next year.
No decision was made Thursday after Sheran Ashby, of Ashby Covenant Insurance, mentioned the idea to commissioners during their meeting.
Ashby noted that currently, because the county offers both employees and their spouses and dependents health insurance coverage, if the spouses and dependents do not take insurance offered through the county, they are not eligible for subsidies.
However, if the county were to not offer a family plan, an employee’s spouse could enroll in a plan through the health insurance exchange and depending on that spouse’s income, he or she could be eligible for tax credits and subsidies to cut the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket health expenses.
Ashby warned the commission that she is unsure of what types of subsidies would be offered next year, but said this could help employees who have families or spouses currently on the county’s health insurance plan.
“We can take this law (Affordable Care Act) and turn it into something good for you,” Ashby said.
The county’s health insurance would likely be up for renewal in October, Ashby said.
According to the county clerk’s office, there are 17 county employees who have coverage on dependents through the county’s plan. There are 93 employees who only have coverage for themselves.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said he would only be interested in learning more about this idea if it provided an opportunity to save county employees money.
County Clerk Carol Bennett said county departments are losing staff because of health insurance costs.
Ashby said the idea is worth exploring, and District One Commissioner Larry Stratman agreed.

Underground storage tanks
Also at Thursday’s meeting, commissioners continued discussion of removing underground storage tanks on the Phelps County Highway Department property on Fairground Road in Rolla.
District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks said that two underground tanks that store diesel fuel should be removed.
While at this time, county officials do not believe the tanks are leaking, as they are tested daily, the tanks are about seven years past their warranty date and may be rusty.
However, Hicks said the county needs to mitigate any circumstances that may lead to a leak.
“We’ve had no leaks or spills that we know of,” Hicks said.
Hicks said he believes that MFA would be willing to empty the tanks and put in new above-ground tanks at no charge, but still sell fuel to the county.
Hicks said he will look into if the county qualifies for a remediation grant.
Hicks has also contacted Gredell Engineering Resources of Rolla, which will prepare a proposal describing the engineering work needed to remove the tanks. The engineering work will likely involve soil testing.
County Road Superintendent Walter Snelson said county crews could remove the tanks themselves.
County officials were told it would be about $8,700 to remedy the underground tanks, which both Snelson and Hicks said would be spending wasted money.
County officials said they don’t know much the engineering work would cost, so they were unsure if they had to seek bids from several engineering firms.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said removing the tanks would bring the county one step closer to relocating the highway department facility and make that property more attractive to prospective buyers.

Other business
County Public Administrator Kathy Oliver reported that she was among 111 public administrators who attended an annual state convention of the Missouri Association of Public Administrators.
The annual training was hosted by Region 4 and held in Joplin April 22-25. Oliver has been certified for having completed 20 hours of training as per required in Senate Bill 601.