Per Employee Health Costs Revealed

Tuftonboro taxpayers spend an average of $20,156.43 per employee on health benefits, according to a spread sheet provided to me by an anonymous source.

The selectmen have been refusing to disclose this public information for over a year. The selectmen first claimed that disclosing the health costs would be a violation of the federal HIPAA law. However, the New Hampshire Municipal Association, a group generally hostile to government transparency, advised the selectmen that in fact it was not a violation of HIPAA. The selectmen nevertheless continue to obstruct the public’s right to know, not to mention to impede the budget committee’s ability to draft a budget.

The selectmen even sent the budget committee a budget for Personnel Administration that contained false information. In this PDF of the Personnel Administration budget, the column labeled “Total Comp” (i.e. Total Compensation) does not include the health costs, and is therefore inaccurate. It is not the “total compensation” for each employee. It is fraudulent.

What we spend on public employees is public information and the selectmen have no right to withhold that information from us.

Published in Town Government
Max Ledoux

Author: Max Ledoux

I've lived in Tuftonboro since 2014. I grew up in Lisbon Falls, Maine (the Moxie capital of the world). I run tuftonboro.net.

9 thoughts on “Per Employee Health Costs Revealed”

  1. Max:

    The link to the right of your chart is faulty. I’m not sure how you received the information but it is disappointing to me that it was released without the authorization of the Selectman. That being said, the information doesn’t hurt anything so I see no issue putting it in the public domain. These health insurance policies are expensive but the benefit packages are not out of line with comparable policies at other municipalities so what is the issue? While I don’t like all of the approaches to governance employed by this group of Selectman I believe they are all men of integrity so the average insurance cost per employee they previously quoted was acceptable to me but the detail you provided is interesting. Any idea why there are 4-policy costs/categories? Singles, couples and families were the categories I came up with. What is the fourth category?

    Finally, If you feel the insurance policies are not justifiable you should consider running for a Selectman’s seat and work to change things. You spend a lot of time on town affairs so why not put yourself be in a position to have direct input? Have you given it any thought?

    Stay warm.

  2. Mike: Thank you for pointing out the broken link — I fixed it. The linked PDF is the same as the image, so it wasn’t any different information.

    The information is public and I don’t need the selectmen’s authorization to publish it.

  3. Hi, Mike, I also want to clarify that at no time have I said the insurance policies are not justified. Without knowing how much they cost us, it wasn’t possible to even make that evaluation. The costs as revealed seem to be in line with other insurance policies. Skip Hurt had an excellent comment on the Tuftonboro Facebook page yesterday — He mentioned that he had chosen when he was younger not to take health insurance from his employer. Instead he received a higher salary and he was able to pay off his mortgage by the time he was 40-years-old. Under the current circumstances, I’m not sure if that’s possible for workers. However, in an ideal situation, my preference would be to pay the employees a higher salary and then let them make the decision on their own whether they want to use their own money to purchase health insurance. Again, that’s not really the way health insurance works today. The individual market currently is very expensive because of many factors. (I would say because of over-regulation. Others might cite different reasons.) I would not advocate this unless there was significant reform on the federal level. On a fundamental level, though, I believe health insurance should be a personal decision, not something tied to one’s employer. Given the current situation in regards to available health insurance policies, the policies we pay for seem appropriate. We wouldn’t even be able to evaluate that, however, if the selectmen had their way. They want to keep us in the dark.

  4. Forgoing health insurance is problematic to me since others bear the cost of the uninsured’s healthcare when these individuals require care due to accidents, sudden illness, etc. I wonder if Skip carried life insurance, car insurance, health insurance for his family, etc. While this apparently worked for Skip I think most would agree it is a risky approach.

    Back to topic. Now that the health insurance costs of the various individual workers are public what can be learned from this information? Why does it matter? We already knew the town’s aggregate healthcare costs. Help me understand. Thank you.

  5. We didn’t know that the aggregate numbers were correct before because we didn’t have the per-employee costs. Now we can add the numbers up and see that the total cost is accurate. That the per-employee costs confirmed the total employee line item does not conclude that we didn’t need to know the per-employee cost. Also, the column on the Personnel Administration spreadsheet for “Total Comp” listed a fraudulent number for individual employees. And finally, the information is public and the selectmen have no right to withhold it.

    On the health insurance matter, I’d say if you (in the general sense, not you specifically) think it’s too risky to not have health insurance then you should get health insurance. But it should be your choice.

  6. Hello Max:

    Just because you have a spread sheet with individual employee costs that doesn’t verify anything. How do you know those figures are accurate? Perhaps the source documents from the insurance companies should be reviewed to confirm the figures on the spread sheet are accurate? In essence do a full audit of the town’s books. Where does it end and for what end?

    I appreciate your belief that the town withheld information it was supposed to release. The lady in the video claims to have guidance that the information shouldn’t have been released. I’m not certain which position is correct. However, putting this dispute aside where are you going with this? I’m trying to understand why it matters? How does this exercise help the town run more efficiently? How does it help our citizens?

  7. The lady in the video is Carla Lootens, the budget committee chairman. She does not have guidance that the information shouldn’t have been released. She’s taken something that she received from the New Hampshire Municipal Association and used it as a pretext to achieve her goal of withholding the information. What happened is that the selectmen used to provide the information (because it’s public information), but Carla decided on her own that it shouldn’t be released. So she set out to find a reason why it shouldn’t be released. She contacted the NHMA and asked if it was a violation of HIPAA. A guy who works for NHMA, named Stephen Buckley, wrote back to her and said it is not a violation of HIPAA, but that some things are exempt from disclosure under 91-A:5-IV, such as medical treatment records. Carla and Carolyn Sundquist then made the illogical leap that the amount taxpayers pay for each employee for health insurance is a medical treatment record. Carla claims she got “advice from counsel.” She didn’t. She got an general email from NHMA.

    If you read my post from just about exactly a year ago, you’ll get some background on this: https://tuftonboro.net/max/town-government/budget-committee/per-employee-health-benefits-costs/.

    Also in my post yesterday I laid out the legal reasons why the information is public and must be disclosed: https://tuftonboro.net/max/town-government/budget-committee/carla-lootens-cooks-looney-fake-facts/

    Why does it matter? Well, if it doesn’t matter, why do we even have a budget committee? Why go through the farce of having budget committee meetings if it doesn’t matter what the numbers are or if the committee has all the numbers? Why not just have the selectmen say, “We’re spending $3,678,192 this year and you don’t get to know how it’s being spent.”

    Taxpayers have a right to know how our taxes are being spent.

    Here’s from my post yesterday:

    The New Hampshire Constitution states that “the public’s right of access to governmental proceedings and records shall not be unreasonably restricted.” This right is codified in RSA 91-A, the Right-to-Know Law, which was enacted “to ensure . . . the greatest possible public access to the actions, discussions and records of all public bodies.” As the preamble to 91-A recognizes, “[o]penness in the conduct of public business is essential to a democratic society.” Thus, 91-A provides that “[e]very citizen . . . has the right to inspect all governmental records in the possession, custody, or control of [all] public bodies or agencies.”

    The Supreme Court explained why transparency is important, writing in Prof’l Firefighters of N.H. that “public scrutiny can expose corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, prejudice and favoritism.”

    Now, if you don’t want to know, or don’t care, what we spend on each employee, then that’s perfectly fine. I respect that. That’s also your right — to not be involved. But you have the option also to exercise your Right to Know.

  8. Mike, what hasn’t been addressed here is that the Town’s employees make no contribution to the premium and are reimbursed for copays and deductables. The County employees, another municipal entity, pay 20-25% of their premiums and have copays and deductibles. Myself and Gordon Hunt (long time owner at Bradley’s Hardware) expressed concern that this practice was unfair to the residents who must deal with health insurance issues on their own. Nonetheless, I’m supposed to sign off on the final budget that to the BEST of my knowledge the figures presented are accurate. I have not been given enough information to verify that for myself, I’m supposed to take the Selectmen’s word for it! Two of those Selectmen sued residents for exercising their legal rights, even after being advised of those rights by NHMA. That alone convinces me that the moral character of these individuals is too poor that I can trust them.

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