Road Dept. eyes its own insurance plan

By AUTUMN HUGHES
Posted 9/11/19

The Bradley County Road Department has the ability to seek health insurance other than what’s offered to other county employees. However, the actual cost of that option won’t be known until after the most recent claims history is made available.

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Road Dept. eyes its own insurance plan

Posted

The Bradley County Road Department has the ability to seek health insurance other than what’s offered to other county employees; however, the actual cost of that option won’t be known until after the most recent claims history is made available.

The Bradley County Commission’s Insurance Committee met Monday to hear from Road Superintendent Sandra Knight, who said she has come to the County Commission several times before about health insurance for the department.

Knight referred to Bradley County’s Private Act of 1951, Chapter 313, which states the county mayor is designated as “County Purchasing Agent” and is “hereby given exclusive power and authority to purchase materials, supplies and equipment of any kind whatsoever, including insurance, for the use of all officials, agents, servants, and departments under the control of the County government or for which the county may be chargeable. … Provided however, that nothing in this Act shall apply to the purchasing of any material, supplies, equipment, real estate, insurance or machinery for the public schools of said County or for the Highway Department thereof.”

Knight said she has gotten several quotes with what she considers better options for health insurance, as well as a supplemental plan for Road Department employees on Medicare. She said 11 of the Road Department’s 61 employees are on Medicare. Also, with less than 100 employees, the insurance company doesn’t have to go by claims history, she said.

Commissioner Charlotte Peak asked Knight why she is exploring a new insurance plan for the Road Department.

"To try to get better coverage at an affordable rate," Knight said.

Knight said she has three employees who had to have stress tests and were told that with insurance it would cost $900. Without insurance the cost is $600, and with MDsave, a company that compares local prices and allows patients to purchase procedures, the cost is $300.

"So I can save $600," and not use insurance, Knight said.

In addition, Road Department officials have been recommending employees go to a pharmacy with costs lower than health insurance medicine copays.

Peak asked County Mayor D. Gary Davis about looking at changing benefits to the benefit of all employees. Davis said if they want to change benefits, he can get costs for that.

"Who's in charge of brokering all of that?" Peak asked.

Davis said Ocoee Insurance Services is the county's insurance broker. He added he is not arguing that Road Department officials have different laws to go by, which is the case under the private act.

Davis added you can't get quotes for insurance costs until it goes to bid, but you can get estimates. He said when insurance coverage is bid out, all insurance companies are allowed to bid.

"We don't disallow anyone from bidding when we go to bid," Davis said.

Davis added that insurance "is one of my responsibilities" and to handle that, he hired a broker through the “request for proposal” process, choosing Ocoee Insurance from the two companies that submitted RFPs.

"It's a professional service, it's not a bidding process," Davis said, adding Ocoee Insurance handles bidding and helps with employee insurance registration.

Davis also referred several times to social media posts on Facebook where "a lot of lies are being said on there" regarding health insurance for county employees. He asked the commissioners to correct people commenting on Facebook when they're wrong.

"Yes, it is the mayor's responsibility … but it is not 100% the mayor's decision," Davis said, adding he never signed an insurance contract without the County Commission's approval.

Davis said, "it's fine with me" if Knight chooses to take the Road Department to a new health insurance plan. However, "no company out there will give us a price until they have a claims history," he added.

In terms of cost savings, Davis said if the Road Department splits off from the existing insurance plan, "somebody's will go up, somebody's will go down." Davis noted he will ask for renewal rate information both with and without the Road Department employees included.

Davis said the claims history is the previous nine months plus the previous year of health insurance claims; he will have that information in a few weeks and then he expects to receive the renewal rate information.

"There's a lot of unknowns until we get the renewal rates," Davis said. He added Bradley County continues to provide free insurance for employees.

The committee also briefly discussed looking at a self-insured plan. Davis said Bradley County will need to have money to put back to cover costs, and they have not been able to do that.

County Commission Chairman Johnny Mull asked how much it will cost to go with a self-insured program. Davis said an actuarial would have to go through the claims history to determine that. He added with a self-insured program, the county can still use an insurance company as administrator.

Sam Cash with Cigna said cost can be determined using a year's worth of claims projections. He said looking at 125% of claims projected, about 25% of total claims spent should be in the bank for a self-funded plan.

Mull said he would like to know that number as "a goal." Davis said they may have that information for the next Insurance Committee meeting.

Mull asked how often Davis has asked for an RFP for an insurance broker. Davis said he has done it one time, and been satisfied with Ocoee Insurance. However, he said Bradley County could seek an RFP at any time.

Andy Williams, senior benefits consultant at CBIZ Inc., has been working with Knight to look into separate health insurance for Road Department employees. He said last year when he met with the Insurance Committee there was discussion of looking at a self-funding program; he also said he was never given the data he requested so that his company could bid on the county’s insurance.

"We weren't given the data as an agency," he said.

Davis said any insurance company that wants to bid for Bradley County’s health insurance is given the claims history so they can formulate a bid; the company submits the price based on claims history. Davis said the claims history is not sent to all insurance agencies, but it can be requested.

Peak asked for clarification when referring to insurance companies compared to insurance agencies: companies are Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United HealthCare, etc.; agencies are State Farm, Nationwide, Allstate, etc. 

Commissioner Bill Winters made a motion for the Insurance Committee to meet again after the committee has the claims history and renewal information. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mike Hughes and approved unanimously.

The committee's next meeting date has not been set.

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