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  • Last modified 99 days ago (April 20, 2017)

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County changes vote on health insurance

Staff writer

Despite an April 10 vote to purchase employee health insurance from United HealthCare, commissioners on April 12 held a special meeting to reconsider, ultimately voting to rescind Monday’s decision and stick with Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The change-of-mind didn’t make UHC happy.

“UnitedHealthcare offered competitive rates and options in our bid to Marion County,” said Garrett Kasper, regional communication director for UHC. “Our proposal included programs designed to help improve the health of the county’s employees, with the goal to create a sustainable financial arrangement for the county to provide employee health benefits. We are disappointed to learn the county changed course after initially selecting our bid and we are reviewing potential options.”

The change came about when county clerk Tina Spencer notified BCBS on Tuesday that the county would not renew its contract for the coming year. BCBS responded with a lower quote for a non-grandfathered plan. That quote was lower than their previous two quotes and slightly higher than UHC’s quote commissioners had selected last Monday.

BCBS’s previous quotes had been $1,000,429 on a grandfathered plan and $939,177 for a non-grandfathered plan.

Eleven county employees attended the special meeting to voice their opinions regarding their health insurance benefits. An employee survey showed support for keeping BCBS and those present vigorously defended that position.

Commissioner Dianne Novak questioned whether changing the vote was a legal move and why the county should pay more than the plan accepted on April 10.

“Are we giving Blue Cross Blue Shield a second chance to bid?” Novak asked.

Commission chair Randy Dallke said the new information was “yelling at me” and added that BCBS “has been good to work with.”

Novak said a county administrator would have gathered all the information at the same time.

Dallke became hostile, raising his voice and saying the decision “needs to be employer-employee based.”

Deputy Mike Ottensmeier said he’d had UHC before and the company was “very hard to deal with.” Ottensmeier said he’d be willing to pay more money out of his pocket to stay with BCBS, even without a raise.

Emergency Medical Director Ed Debesis said a company he used to work for had UHC one year and changed back.

Novak said the only way she’d go for the change is if employees are willing to pay the difference between the cost of UHC and the cost of BCBS, because she wanted to be fair to taxpayers.

Employees responded with remarks that they are taxpayers.

Commissioner Kent Becker moved to rescind Monday’s vote, increase employees’ share of insurance by $40, and accept BCBS insurance.

County counsel Susan Robson, contacted later, said she sees no problem with commissioners changing their minds on the insurance.

“I think it’s OK because it wasn’t a process of taking sealed bids,” Robson said.

“Nothing the governing body does is cast in stone,” said Larry Baer, general counsel for the Kansas League of Municipalities. “They can undo it and do something different. There may or may not be consequences. I wouldn’t want to speculate on what those consequences might be.”

Last modified April 20, 2017

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