2008-01-16 / Front Page

County moves to health reimbursement account

By Debbie Lowe Staff writer

Carroll County Commissioners met in special session Monday morning with Carroll County native and insurance agent Cindy Finkenbinder and a room full of county employees eager to hear what plan would be chosen for them as of Feb. 1. After an hour and a half of questions, concerns, answers and comments, the option for a dualoption plan of a health reimbursement account (HRA) and a more traditional co-pay account were chosen unanimously after commissioner Bill Brown moved to approve the measure. George Mears provided the second. Brown said he favored the HRA because the cost to employees was less per month than the other plans presented.

Brown's sentiment was shared by at least one department head.

"We need to do the minimum hurt to the employees because there is no guarantee of a two percent raise in the (unapproved) 2008 budget," sheriff Tony Burns said.

Burns recommended any excess balance of the county contribution to the employees' accounts, $1,500, be rolled over to the employees' accounts next year to lower the amount of their deductible. That suggestion became part of the approved motion.

During the discussion, concern was registered that the service was not bid out for competitive quotations. Mindy Anderson of Employee Benefit Solutions of Indiana Inc. asked several times if a request for proposals for competitive bids was sent out to get the best price for the service for the county. Anderson said she owned land in Carroll County and was a taxpayer with a vested interest in the matter.

"The county is not open to bids from other agents?" Anderson pointedly asked at least four times without receiving a definitive answer.

"The county council is pressuring the commissioners to make a change now," auditor Beth Myers explained.

Anderson said the $800,000 the county will spend on health insurance in 2008 "might produce other ideas from different agents." She said it was highly unusual that a county does not bid out health insurance.

"If we could find something that's cheaper, we aren't going to look at it?" asked former sheriff Dennis Randle.

Commissioners' president Loren Hylton replied commissioners would like to "get onboard with the council" to be able to provide quotes before the 2009 budget is developed in July. He said the council was invited to "previous meetings about health insurance" and did not attend. Myers noted there were no council members present at the Monday morning meeting.

[Hylton clarified in a Comet interview after the meeting former council president Rob Baker was invited to attend the discussions and did not participate. He said Monday's meeting was advertised as an open meeting and the expectation was for council members to be present. When asked if a bid process would be on the commissioners' agenda, Hylton said he would "try" to get it on the agenda. He explained the decision was one for all of the commissioners.]

"It's good to shop around," Burns said, recommending a bid process in April. "It's good consumerism."

In a telephone Comet interview Monday afternoon, Anderson said she called the auditor's office on Friday and asked to be put on the agenda. However, that request was denied. Anderson spoke from her seat during the meeting.

"I don't think I got straight answers today," she said. "I think their minds were made up before I arrived."

"The bidding process exists to make sure everything that can be done is done for the insured," she continued. "The process needs to be followed."

"You don't take the path of least resistance with $800,000 of county money," she added. "I'm not saying there is something better out there. But just because you are not required to accept bids, it doesn't mean it's not a good idea to do so. They are tied to this insurance agent for whatever reason and they're not giving in."

In a follow-up interview, Finkenbinder with MBAH Insurance, Lafayette, said that she is a Carroll County native and wants the best for the county. She said that although she no longer lives in the county, she has "lots of family" in the area. She said her father was Sherry Mears and both George Mears and (county council member) Carl Abbott are first cousins. She said she is a 1970 graduate of Delphi Community High School and even purchased her last car in the county.

She explained that agents would receive the same quotes from the same providers if they all use the same data. However, if different plans are pitched to the providers, by different agents, costs would vary.

"Bidding quotes is a good idea," she said. "Different plans can produce different dollar amounts."

Finkenbinder said employee meetings for clarification will be held Jan. 18. She will visit the highway department at 6:30 a.m., the courthouse at 9 a.m., the sheriff's department at 1 p.m. and Carroll Manor at 3 p.m. to explain the plan. A Jan. 22 meeting at 2 p.m. at the courthouse was scheduled for those employees who were unable to attend one of the other meetings.

The next commissioners' meeting will be Jan. 21 at 9 a.m.

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