Commission studies insurance proposals

Published 9:52 am Friday, November 7, 2008

The county is mulling over three health insurance proposals for county employees but said a final decision is likely two weeks away.

At its Thursday meeting, Lawrence County Commissioners met with Dave Brown, of Brown Raybourn, the company that handles the county’s coverage through Medical Mutual of Ohio.

Brown said if employees stay in the coverage tier they have now, there would be an 18.8 percent increase with Medical Mutual. If employees dropped out of tier 1 and took tier 2 the increase would only be 9.83 percent.

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The second proposal is from United Health Care. The UHC proposal would mean a 7.9 percent increase in premiums. Either proposal would mean an increase of anywhere from $318,000 to $756,000 over what the county is paying now.

One factor for the increase is the amount of claims filed last year, which accounted for more than the county paid in coverage.

The third proposal is from Central States. Brown and Commission President Doug Malone said they met with Central States executives and have some concerns that need to be addressed in writing. One of the concerns is whether Central States would provide the county with its statistics on claims and the like to another insurance company if the county signed with Central States but then in years to come decided to shop around for insurance, say, to save money. Such statistics are essential when the county wants to put health insurance out for bid. Other companies would want to know what kind of claims the county has had in the past when creating its own proposal for service.

“The thing is, we just can’t jump on this until we have concrete answers,” Malone said. “We’ve got to watch that we don’t get stuck. I think we’ve got to beware. You’ve all heard of bait and switch? This may be bait and keep. We may not be able to get out of it if we had to.”

Brown agreed. “Central States looks good on paper, no ifs ands or buts. But we had $4.5 million in claims last year and why would anybody want to write (a policy for) $3.2 million in premiums for $4.5 million in claims?” Commissioner Jason Stephens pointed out that both Medical Mutual and United Health Care are insurance companies and this is different from Central States, which is a health and welfare fund.

“If you go into a health and welfare fund, how stable is the fund?” Stephens asked. “It may be that this decision us not the best one two or three years down the road and how do we get out of it?”

Right now, employees may opt out. but commissioners said Central States has a rule that all employees must participate.

If they do not, the county would be assessed a 15 percent fee.

Malone said he would like to have a decision made by Nov. 20, since premiums are deducted from December payrolls for January premiums.