Supes opt to keep BCBS for county employees

District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller suggested the board change health insurance providers from Blue Cross Blue Field at Monday’s board meeting amid potential legal concerns and cost benefits. (Photo by Faith Lifer, SDN)

Faith Lifer
Staff Writer

Despite concerns, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors decided to keep county health insurance with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) during the board meeting Monday morning. The provider has covered county health insurance over the past several years.

Although the board voted to remain with BCBS for the coming year, it also approved plans to consider other insurance options in May, amid potential legal concerns and cost benefits.

District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard was absent from Monday’s board meeting for personal reasons. During the opening of the discussion during Monday’s board meeting, District 4 Supervisor Bricklee Miller suggested the board change providers from BCBS.

“I think we should change,” Miller said. “That’s my opinion, based on the information.”

The board decided to stay with BCBS during the Nov. 19 board meeting per County Administrator Emily Garrard’s recommendation. Yet the discussion continued and members from Cigna Insurance Company came to the Dec. 3 board meeting to present their health insurance benefits. Although the fee for insurance between the two companies would be the same, Cigna offered the county a lower administrative cost and potential savings in pharmaceutical costs. Cigna and BCBS debated their benefits at the Dec. 3 meeting.

Board President and District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said he believed the board should stay with BCBS for the coming year, but consider changing providers the following year.

“I think we need to stay where we are now, but there’s alway next year,” Trainer said. “This coming year, I think we’ll have plenty of time to get all of the information. I think it’s very competitive and I think we will be able to make a better decision.”

“I’m just afraid that if we make a change at this point then there will be some unexpected consequences that we’re going to have to deal with,” Trainer continued. “And this is only for a year. It’s not like it’s going to be four years.”

Miller said, in the future, she thinks it’s important that the board be more informed and involved throughout the decision-making process. Board Vice President and District 1 Supervisor John Montgomery agreed with Miller but still thought the county should stay with BCBS this year.

“I agree, but like (Trainer) is saying I think it might be something we need to look at next year,” Montgomery said. “I do think we need to look at changing.”

Miller also brought forth legal concerns presented to the board by Cigna at the Dec. 3 meeting.

“One of the things that was brought to our attention was that the accurate amount (for dependents) was not being charged,” Miller said.

Cigna indicated there is a formula to calculate the proper amount the county employees should pay for dependents in order for that cost to not fall on county taxpayers and that Oktibbeha County was not following the formula. Trainer said it would be a “game changer” if the county would need to increase dependent premium coverage.

“There is a formula that calculates the adequate amount in premiums that employees should be paying, and currently the dependent (cost) is not at that amount,” Miller said. “They were saying that the amount per month should have been more than the employees were paying.”

Trainer disagreed that the county was doing anything inappropriate.

“You’re right, I’m not challenging you, but we’re not doing anything inappropriate with what we’re doing,” Trainer said.

“What I’m challenging is the formula,” Miller responded. “So I’m saying we need to investigate the formula that is supposed to be the adequate amount.”

Board Attorney Rob Roberson said he would look into the matter and whether there was a legally required formula before the next board meeting.

“Supervisor Miller’s exactly right,” Roberson said. “We need to make sure that we are complying with what’s required.”

Roberson said he believes the county is currently complying with the formula for dependent coverage.

“We’re going to have to revisit this by May or June regardless, let me find out what this formula is, what we’re supposed to be doing,” Roberson said. “Let’s get this together.”

District 5 Supervisor Joe Williams made a motion to continue with the county’s present provider, BCBS.

“I will second that, but I say— in the beginning— we need to seriously, seriously sort this out and maybe in the first meeting in May,” Montgomery said.

The condition to the motion includes that the board will receive and review proposals to consider other health insurance options six months before making a decision on next year’s provider. Since the board anticipates changing its health insurance provider, it’s required that it starts the proposal process six months in advance to properly change providers.

“We want to make sure in the future that the proposals are seen by the supervisors so we can make an educated decision,” Miller said. “Next year we want to have more time and have the proposals early enough where we can see what plan has the most cost savings for the county and best benefits to the employees.”

The motion with the conditions passed 3-1, with Miller opposed and Howard absent.

After the meeting, Trainer said multiple insurance companies have contacted the county in the past about providing it health insurance.

“Between now and May, I’m assuming everything will stay the same with BCBS but then what we’ll do is we’ll open it up for not only them but others to make proposals to the county,” Trainer said. “We’re just trying to provide the best benefit we can for the lowest price that we can get the best for.”

“We want to make sure, before we make a move, the repercussions of what could happen because we’ve got families that could be affected and people’s livelihoods that could be affected,” Trainer concluded.