Obamacare compliance work continues

JOHNSTOWN – Fulton County and the city continue to work with a Rensselaer County firm that is helping them comply administratively with the federal Affordable Care Act.

Both the county and the city in recent months signed separate $4,000 contracts with Benetech Inc. of North Greenbush. The firm is assisting the municipalities with paperwork related to the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare.

The Johnstown Common Council in December approved an agreement with Benetech so the firm could perform administrative services for the city related to the Affordable Care Act.

The Fulton County Board of Supervisors in March approved a similar resolution for Benetech to “perform data testing and reporting procedures required for the act.”

The federal statute signed into law in March 2010 includes multiple provisions over years, including expansion of Medicaid eligibility, establishment of health-insurance exchanges, and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Large employers must offer minimum essential coverage to substantially cover all full-time employees or pay a penalty. The act has a measurement period running until September.

Johnstown City Treasurer Michael Gifford said Monday his office works regularly with Benetech. The agreement relates to 129 city government employees, including 86 full-time employees who work 30 or more hours per week.

“We built a massive spreadsheet,” he said.

Gifford said files were emailed to Benetech. With numerous legal challenges to Obamacare, he said he’s not sure if the city will require any more Benetech services.

“The way life goes, my thinking is probably more,” he said.

Services provided by Benetech include an overview of the data collection process, guidance on how data is tabulated, detailed Excel file layouts, detailed Affordable Care Act definitions of data elements gathered, and consultation during the collection process. Benetech is also providing the city a detailed list of documentation required for compliance, such as current summary plan descriptions, internal policies regarding eligibility, waiting periods and collective bargaining agreements.

The firm also offers testing services verifying full-time equivalent employees and whether current plans meet the act’s definition of minimum essential coverage.

Fulton County Personnel Director Theresa Souza said Monday the county’s relationship with Benetech is “going great.”

“Besides keeping us updated, in layman’s terms, they’re going to actually do our testing that is submitted to the IRS,” she said.

She said Bentech has the proper software to determine whether Fulton County, which has several hundred employees, is considered a large employer. Souza said the firm will also analyze payroll information to determine the affordability of certain health insurance for county employees.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.