Insurance move avoids high risk

Published 10:08 pm Saturday, November 29, 2008

It was a hot election topic that continues to sizzle long after the votes have been counted: Lawrence County government employees’ insurance.

Opting not to wait until the new year to make changes, the current commission moved forward with a one-year plan to avoid an 18 percent increase by switching from Medical Mutual to United Health Insurance.

But don’t let the politics or the personalities cloud the issue: They appear to have made the smart decision rather than allowing emotions or politics to get involved.

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Although the new insurance plan won’t generate the flashy savings that Central States’ proposal might have, United Health’s coverage will likely save the county a little bit of money and also potentially decrease the number of claims because the proposal includes a higher deductible.

The bottom line is that two of the commissioners — Jason Stephens and Doug Malone — have both made successful careers in the insurance industry. Because both their political futures may be tied to getting the county in solid financial shape, we have to believe that they used their expertise to make the best long-term decision.

Ultimately, the commissioners were left in the position of juggling the high risk of spending more tax dollars versus the reward of saving money. They made the right call in this case.

The lure of Central States’ cheaper plan could be enticing but the potential problems are too dangerous to flirt with.

Lawrence County would be the first county in Ohio to have non-union employees covered by Central States, something that could be problematic if the Ohio Insurance Board would determine that the company needed to follow more stringent guidelines than it is accustomed.

And, perhaps most concerning, is the fact that Central States said it wouldn’t ever provide the county its claim information, a factor that would essentially make it impossible for the county to seek other insurance alternatives.

The county leaders got it right when they passed up the deal that looked sweet for the first year but that came with a lack of flexibility and options that would leave the county powerless down the road.