By Jessica Walker

Monday night city commissioners took a step in the direction to pay new fees that will be charged to city employees under the Affordable Care Act taking place January 1.

Commissioner Keith Hall made a motion to go with an option suggested by Tamera Johnson, Shawnee HR Director, and City Manager Brian McDougal to move forward in paying the fees for city employees for the first six months after the ACA takes place. The commission unanimously agreed with that motion with the stipulation all city employees receive a written explanation of how the new fees will affect them. The commission will need to bargain with the unions for the appropriate contract adjustments according to a memo in the agenda.

“I think it’s important to educate the employees so that they would have that six months to figure out where that money is going to come out of,” said Commissioner Pam Stephens.

One of the new ACA fees is an increase on a fee already implemented called the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute Fee, which Dustin Brand of INSURICA said has been a nominal fee of $1 per member per year as a plan expense but will increase in 2014 to $2 per employee per year and then will more than likely increase in future years.

Another fee is the Health Insurance Provider Tax, which is an excise tax imposed upon providers of health insurance, Brand said.

He said the cost of this fee is assessed upon all premiums about $25 million for each health insurer, which is estimated to be 2.5 to 3 percent of those premiums.

The final fee is the Transitional Reinsurance Fee. Brand said the ACA developed this fee to help offset assumed negative risk insured within the new Insurance Exchange during the initial years of operation.

Cindy Sementelli, Shawnee finance director, reviewed possible funding for the ACA fees and recommended the city pay the fee, totaling $30,507.18 because the city gave employees a specific rate for the fiscal year without the fees factored in because the staff was unaware of the upcoming fees.

There were two other options that were available to commissioners provided by Johnson. First, the city could decide to absorb 100 percent of the 3.5 percent in ACA fees for all employees into perpetuity. Second, the city could build the 3.5 percent into each premium tier and redistribute the cost to the employees.

Because the city chose to go with the six-month option, city employees will be responsible for the cost of the fees after June 30.

New taxicab proposed

ordinance discussed

City commissioners left the public hearing on modification of a taxicab ordinance open until their next meeting.

Justin Erickson, Shawnee planning director, made a presentation to commissioners and proposed the commission adopt a revised vehicle for hire ordinance.

“The current ordinance has not been updated for at least 25 years,” he said.

The need for a revised ordinance was addressed at a city commission meeting in February and Erickson proposed the draft to the two taxicab companies, Executive Cab and Castle Cab, in June.

“Staff personally spoke with and met with representatives of both companies,” Erickson said.

Although the proposed ordinance is similar to the existing ordinance, there are a few major changes.

Under the proposed ordinance, taximeters are required, there is a clear process for revocation and there is an insurance requirement, Erickson said.

Tony Sampson, owner of Castle Cab, spoke at the city commission meeting about concerns he has with the proposed ordnance.

He said one of his concerns was a new insurance requirement because as it was written in the proposed ordinance, there were discrepancies with federal law however; the proposed ordinance is consistent with state law.

“It’s a complicated issue with the insurance,” Erickson said, adding there is a different set of standards within city limits than there are if a cab driver was driving someone outside of city limits and cab drivers must abide by those different insurance standards.

“If we’re all going to play on the same field, we all need to be on the same field,” Sampson said.

The second concern Sampson had was a line in the proposed ordinance that said ‘no misdemeanors or felonies’ could be on someone’s record that wanted to be a driver.

“I can see that to a degree, but I can sit here and say that I’m 40 years old and I would not do the things I would do at 16,” Sampson said.

He gave an example of a man who might have had a fight early on in his life and who would today be in his 50s but couldn’t drive a cab because of a decision he made years ago.

“That’s just not right,” he said.

Sampson said it’s up to the discretion of the cab company to who they let drive the cabs and he wouldn’t let someone dangerous behind the wheel but ‘there are certain circumstances that should be looked at.’

“You don’t want a child molester in the front seat,” he said. “You don’t want a sexual predator driving people around. That’s a given.”

Erickson addressed this concern, explaining that after the first draft was written, the word ‘misdemeanor’ was removed and the proposed ordinance now reads, ‘felony or violent offence.’

Another concern Sampson had with the proposed ordinance is the lack of explanation of dispatch methods.

“Nowhere in there does it say dispatch,” he said, adding cab companies should be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Erickson addressed this issue as well.

“I believe that requirement is in there,” he said, explaining dispatch is ‘a little different’ with newer technology like cell phones.

The last concern Sampson had was concerning service companies that transport handicapped citizens and senior citizens and he said he’s concerned with those types of companies because they act as a taxicab company.

Sampson summed up his concerns, saying everybody needs to be on the same page.

“I would personally like to see both of the cab companies have some more dialogue with you [Erickson] to make sure everyone’s truly comfortable with what works for our city and what works for them,” said Stephens.

Erickson and Sampson agreed to meet, along with a representative from Executive Cab, and the public hearing will continue at the next city commission meeting set for Nov. 18.