Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 23, 2014

Legislature looking into single, countywide health plan for municipalities

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara County Legislature is expected to vote at a special meeting Tuesday to take part in a feasibility study of creating a single health benefits consortium for employees in all 21 local governments in the county.

The meeting, announced Friday, is to be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the legislative chambers of the county courthouse, 175 Hawley St.

If the resolution passes, Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, said the action wouldn’t commit the county to join a consortium. The county would be agreeing only to provide the data a consultant would need to perform the study and to appoint someone to serve on an ad hoc committee overseeing the study. 

The goal is to see if offering health insurance jointly could save money, said Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane. And the creation of a consortium could be beneficial for property taxpayers in another way, too. Syracuse said Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is requiring some shared services projects for local governments if their property tax increases are to be rebated to residents by the state in 2015. A health consortium could meet that requirement.

“We could kill two birds with one stone,” Syracuse said. “It could save some dollars and meet the shared services requirement.”

The meeting was called for Tuesday, because the next business meeting for the Legislature isn’t until Aug. 6, said Chairman Bill Ross, C-Wheatfield.

Ross said he’s interested in looking into a countywide health consortium because the financial challenges aren’t going away anytime soon.

“Revenues aren’t going to increase; I’m even worried about sales tax,” he said. “Costs keep going up though... you can only close down so many Mount Views. We have to help ourselves.”

Ross said the other municipalities need the county to participate because it has almost as many employees as all the municipalities combined. And because state law says no health consortium may be formed unless at least 2,000 employees are covered.

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