The Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors expanded benefits for members of the board to include paid group dental and vision insurance for spouses of directors at its meeting on May 16. The cost is estimated to be $127 per person per month or about $1,524 per person per year. The total cost is unknown because it will depend upon how many directors and spouses participate. There are five elected directors.
Previously the district offered paid group dental and vision insurance and paid health insurance premiums for directors, but there was no coverage offered to spouses of directors.
The latest action will allow directors to purchase group health insurance for family members through the district at their own expense. And directors will be able to purchase group dental and vision for dependent children through the district at their own expense.
The matter came up earlier this year when Director Lydia Chaney was elected to the board, and the district inadvertently offered her paid health insurance for her spouse. The board then began to explore whether it could offer paid health insurance for spouses and has determined that it would be too expensive for the district.
According to minutes of the April 12 meeting of the board’s Finance Committee, Chief Executive Officer Peggy Mendiburu reported that paying for medical insurance for directors and spouses would cost the district approximately $22,000 per month.
At the May 16 board meeting, Director Carl Gehricke noted that when he was a director many years ago, while the district still operated Tehachapi Valley Hospital, he recalled that the district offered directors the benefit of joining the hospital’s group health insurance plan, but at their own expense.
Although the district did not pay premiums for directors at that time, Gehricke said there was still a benefit because group health insurance was typically lower in cost than individual plans and did not exclude preexisting conditions.
But the district legal counsel, Scott Nave, told directors that the district’s current policy, written in 2011, included language that was lifted from bylaws written in 1999.
“As far back as I can remember, the district has always covered medical (insurance) for directors,” Nave said.
“But that’s when we were a full hospital, and now we’re a little two-person district office,” Gehricke said.
A motion to approve paid vision and dental insurance for directors' spouses was already on the floor, however, and after some discussion, the board voted 4-1 to approve, with Gehricke opposed and all other directors — Nixon, Chaney, Bill Steele and Duane Moats in favor.
The Tehachapi Valley Hospital District was formed in 1949, following passage of the Local Hospital District Law by the state legislature in 1945. It was later renamed the Tehachapi Valley Healthcare District. The district collects property tax revenue and also passed bonds to help build the new hospital. In addition to property tax revenue, the district is supported by rental income from property it owns.
The district’s projected income for the current fiscal year is $1,147,400, of which about $1,060,000 is property tax revenue. These amounts are for the operation of the district but not for the operation of the hospital, which is handled through a lease arrangement with the district. Adventist Health does not provide the district with cash for its lease of the hospital because it provided about $37.5 million to complete the hospital when the district ran out of funds.
Since then, Adventist reported last year that it had invested more than $10 million in additional funds for the hospital. And in November 2022, voters approved an extension of the hospital lease in exchange for Adventist building an $8 million outpatient facility adjacent to the hospital.
More information about the district is available online at tvhd.org.
Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of the Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be reached by email: email@example.com.
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