The Gregg County Commissioners Court on Thursday approved a change to employee health insurance despite a concern expressed by some members about a lack of time to conduct research.
Commissioners heard from Dawn Brinson of Brinson Benefits, a consultant who has worked with the county for two years.
Brinson’s item that generated the most discussion was whether the county should award a contract for the administration of the medical and dental plan to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said the county contracted with Healthcare Highways for two years and received numerous complaints from employees about the company and its delay in processing claims.
County employees were contacted by their health care providers asking why payment had not been made, he said.
“The Health Highways weren’t processing (the claims), and they were bundling them together. Instead of doing it for everyone, they would wait until they had hundreds and then they would process them,” Stoudt said.
He appointed a committee consisting of himself, human resources, purchasing, audit and Brinson to review options for the county health care administrator.
And in January, Brinson was tasked with soliciting bids for a company that could replace Healthcare Highways, Stoudt said.
According to Stoudt, 33 companies submitted bids — the most she has ever received for an employee insurance contract.
Three weeks ago, Brinson presented the offers to Stoudt and offered to seek a lower price if he was willing to “rush time”. He agreed and told her to look for a lower offer.
pct. Commissioner Floyd Wingo said the insurance change information packet was only given to commissioners two days before Thursday’s meeting and he believed they did not have enough time to take an informed decision. Wingo asked why the Stewards had not been informed of the change sooner.
It was taken over by Pct. 1 Steward Ronnie McKinney, who agreed that two days was insufficient for the Stewards to fully read and understand the plans and information presented to them by Brinson.
Wingo added that more research should be done to determine if BCBS is the best option. He also questioned why the commissioners had not been told what the Stoudt-appointed committee was doing.
Stoudt said that as a member of the committee, he had been aware of the plan to move to BCBS for some time. Wingo said it made no sense for Stoudt to have been the only one with prior knowledge when commissioners were caught off guard by the news the same week of the vote.
Stoudt explained his decision to ask Brinson to seek lower offers and took responsibility for not informing the stewards sooner.
He said the committee only made the decision last Friday, and if he hadn’t chosen to push for a lower offer, it could have gone to the stewards weeks ago.
But Stoudt said his decision to do so resulted in lower costs for the county.
He said after the meeting that the county pays an average of $1,100 per employee. With the new BCBS contact, this price would be reduced to approximately $700 per employee.
He told the commissioners that even if they extended the vote for a week, it was likely that none of them would come any closer to understanding the scope of the insurance schemes. He asked them to vote on the contract and if they had any concerns they could be addressed next year when the problems return.
Wingo asked what kind of timeframe the commissioners would have to research if they decided to file the item Thursday, and Brinson replied that about a week.
The commissioners eventually approved the contract unanimously.