Bath still discussing healthcare options

BATH TOWNSHIP – The healthcare insurance consortium representing Bath Township and approximately 149 government entities in Ohio has extended the deadline for members to rescind their withdrawal from the healthcare cooperative pool.

During the Aug. 16 township meeting, Township Trustee John Martin said the Ohio Public Entity Consortium Healthcare Cooperative (OPEC-HC) Board of Directors held an emergency meeting on Aug. 15 and approved a resolution to extend the deadline from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 to allow for the completion of ratings and projections for 2018 renewals.

Martin also noted that during the emergency meeting, the OPEC-HC Board of Directors approved a settlement agreement and release with Jefferson Health Plan, which was reinstated as administrator of the consortium, along with Benovation. According to Martin, member entities have the option to stay with Benovation or move to the Jefferson Health Plan. Benovation will remain the administrator for any member entity that does not indicate its selection by Aug. 31.

In May, township trustees were informed about the fiscal mismanagement that had occurred within OPEC-HC, which brought about an estimated deficit of $14 million, according to Township Trustee Steven Ross.

The consortium’s original agreement required member entities to provide notice of withdrawal by July 1 of this year but provided them the option to rescind the notice. In June, the Bath Township Trustees sent a letter of intent to withdraw from OPEC-HC when the township’s contract expires at the end of this year. However, Ross pointed out that the township could be charged as much as $52,000 under the withdrawal condition. He noted that all members of the pool were expected to pay a share of the deficit to Jefferson Health Plan, the claims administrator.

OPEC-HC Board of Directors held a meeting on June 26 and abruptly terminated the consortiums’ relationship with the Jefferson Health Plan, effective July 1. The board then entered into a partnership with Benovation in Cincinnati, to serve as the new administrator.

During Wednesday, July 19 township meeting, Ross stated that he had communicated with Frank Harmon, owner of the Ohio Insurance Services Agency who exclusively markets OPEC-HC. According to Harmon, OPEC-HC members, who will be renewing their current health insurance contracts when they expire at the end of this year, would only be charged a 7 percent increase in annual premiums. The consortium also changed the composition of its board of directors and the terms of its contractual agreement for members, reducing the duration of the contracts from three years to one year.

Martin stated that the township trustees received a letter, dated Aug. 16, 2017, from Harmon regarding an article about the Ohio Auditor and several county prosecutors’ investigation of OPEC-HC, which was published in a Columbus newspaper on Aug. 16. At least three lawsuits currently exist against the consortium and its operator with allegations of fraud, breach of contract, and illegal operations.

A copy of Harmon’s letter disclosed that he believed the newspaper article had various quotes from competitors and an attorney engaged in litigation against OPEC-HC. He also stated that the article represented some misstatements.

“I am not the founder of OPEC-HC. Rather OPEC-HC came to being out of concerns of how the ACA (Affordable Care Act) would impact healthcare benefits. Member entities elected to join OPEC-HC, which is a council of governments and has Jefferson Health Plan as the administrator,” Harmon stated in the letter.

Harmon also pointed out in the letter that Ohio Insurance Services (OIS) is the marketing and services firm. OIS, OPEC-HC, and the broker provide numerous services to the employees and family members of the member entities. He noted that OPEC-HC has followed the lead of Jefferson Health Plan in determining that the member is “confidential” and not readily available, and OPEC-HC’s attorney was of the same opinion.

Harmon concluded by stating that until recently, he had not been involved in a lawsuit. However, as claims outpace contributions, and OPEC-HC incurs debt, “some finger pointing started to happen.”

Since their withdrawal from OPEC-HC, the township trustees have been actively seeking quotes from other insurance providers in the state. They have also taken a second look at OPEC-HC. Several township employees have expressed their satisfaction with Benovation as their healthcare provider, including Township Trustee Ross. Now that OPEC-HC has reinstated Jefferson Health Plan as one of its administrators, the township trustees will have to make a decision before Aug. 31 to either stay with Benovation for the remainder of 2017 or go with Jefferson Health Plan.

“This extended deadline to rescind our notice will give us more time to examine our healthcare insurance options and make a decision that will best serve our township employees,” Martin said.

The Bath Township Board of Trustees will meet again in regular session at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 30 at the Bath Township Community Building, 1006 Yellow Springs–Fairfield Road.

By Linda Collins

For the Fairborn Herald

Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.