WEST ROCKHILL — Township-paid health insurance for the West Rockhill Township Board of Supervisors and their spouses is again in the spotlight.
At board meetings in November and December of last year, a group of residents reported $401,166.28 was paid in the five years 2014 through 2018 for the coverage. At the same time, the board often rejected requests for spending in other areas, citing tight budgets as the reason, the residents said.
Under state law, the board and their families are eligible to receive the coverage, but West Rockhill is unique among local townships in actually having board members receive the benefit, the residents said.
Board member Jim Miller said at the time that the amount paid for he and his wife's coverage was significantly less than what was paid for the other two board members because he chose to go on Medicare. He and the residents asked that the other board members make changes to reduce the costs for their coverage.
Board member Don Duvall said at the time that he is on Medicare, but his supplemental coverage is not the Medigap plan Miller has. Factors including age and medical conditions affect the costs of the insurance coverage, he said.
At the September 18 board meeting, Duvall read a prepared statement and asked that it be submitted into the meeting record.
In the statement, he said he had been attacked by a group who "weaponized my personal health insurance information for their own political gain."
Duvall, a Republican, is facing-off with Democrat David Collingwood in this year's elections for the board seat. The other two board members, whose seats are not up for election this year, are Democrat Miller and Republican Jay Keyser.
"When first elected, I accepted the West Rockhill Township health insurance plan that was offered to all supervisors. During my tenure, I contracted a serious, life-threatening disease. The pre-existing medical condition has precluded me from changing to any kind of different medical plan," Duvall said. "I am happy to report that in the past several months, my condition has improved tremendously, and I can now transition to other hopefully cost effective options."
He said he has always been financially conservative and this is no exception.
"Our township has flourished, and I believe that my leadership has contributed to that. Serving the residents of this beautiful township is important to me and has been an honor," he said. "With the future support of the citizens of this township, I hope to continue to do so."
"I think that letter is out of order," resident Frank Szymendera said.
"It was a political speech," he said. Both he and Miller said the statement should not be included in the meeting minutes.
Township solicitor Mary Eberle said she and Township Manager Greg Lippincott will look into it and advise the board on whether the statement should be included.
Miller said there was no attack or political motivation behind the questions raised at the meetings last year. The issue is a financial one, he said.
Resident Sue Furlong said Duvall's statement was an answer to things raised at the previous meetings and should be included in the meeting record.
"If that wasn't political," she said in reference to the earlier meetings, "I don't know why this was political."
Resident Regina Schrameyer, who said the issue initially arose after the information about the health insurance costs was included by mistake in a right to know request she made to the township, said raising the issue wasn't about politics.
"It was concern about all the money that's being spent on that health insurance," she said.
Furlong said there have been inappropriate things said in the debate.
"You spoke freely about somebody's healthcare without regard to their personal privacy," she said.
"The man has the right after all of the abuse that you've heaped on him about a personal situation to bring you up to date on what he is now doing," she said.
Miller said no one's personal healthcare situation was ever given out during the public meetings.
"The care, itself, was never discussed in any meeting," he said. "It was strictly about the cost of healthcare."
There are options available, he said.
"Of the six people who were eligible, supervisors and spouses, my wife and I were the only ones that took the cheaper plan," Miller said. "The others were all eligible for it, but no one else took it, and it was the cost of those healthcare policies that was discussed."
You can't say the others could have opted for another choice when you don't know their health conditions, Keyser said.
"They can't take the same plan you took because of their health conditions," he said.
Duvall said that, "people are talking about something they know nothing about."
"You brought it up, Don," Schrameyer said.
"You started it," Duvall said.