OAKLAND — Small businesses may be able to offer health insurance to their employees at a reduced cost to employers with state funding that will be facilitated through local health departments.

“There is about $15 million in the state budget for it,” Rodney Glotfelty, director of the Garrett County Health Department said. “It’s for employers who have between two and nine employees.”

Glotfelty told the Garrett County commissioners during a departmental update that the new Health Insurance Partnership could pay an incentive that would be as much as 50 percent of the cost of health insurance for employees.

The program would allow small businesses to offer health insurance that they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. It was enacted by the Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act, which was approved during the 2007 special session of the state legislature.

Glotfelty said he is going to approach the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce once the program goes into effect in September. He said going to the chamber seems the logical step to promote the partnership.

Glotfelty also gave an update on the upcoming Other Post-Employment Benefits for state employees who work within the health department. He said it remains a problem that the state is not providing enough funding for the benefits for its employees in the health department, leaving it up to the department and local government to cover those costs.

The total cost of OPEB for state employees within the health department not covered is in excess of $400,000, Glotfelty said.

Fred Holliday, county commissioner, said when he’d been asked at the Maryland Association of Counties conference to meet with the governor to discuss this issue, he was grateful for Glotfelty’s input and assistance. He said Glotfelty had given him a list of bullet points to discuss with Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Maybe between the two of us we’ve made some impact,” Glotfelty said.

He said later that if local governments are not able to afford the cost of hundreds of thousands in OPEB funding, the options would be for local government to fund the benefits each year or for the health departments to make cuts in their staffing.

Glotfelty reminded the commissioners of Garrett County’s Today is the Day on Sept. 12 from 7 to 9 a.m. The event promotes parents and guardians talking to children about drug and alcohol abuse. More information is available on the Garrett County Health Department Web site at www.garretthealth.org.

Contact Sarah Moses at smoses@times-news.com.

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