BATH TOWNSHIP – After searching six months for better health insurance coverage for township employees and their families, Bath Township Trustees approved a new healthcare plan that will save local taxpayers approximately $55,000 annually.
In a 3-0 vote during the Nov. 15 township meeting, the trustees approved a group benefit package with the King Agency, based in Holland, Ohio. Township Trustee President Steve Ross said the new healthcare insurance plan, which includes vision, dental, life and prescription coverage, would officially go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.
The trustees’ decision brings about the end of the township’s affiliation with the Ohio Public Entities Consortium Healthcare Cooperative (OPEC-HC) when its three-year contract expires at the end of the year. The consortium was created in 2014 to lower healthcare costs for thousands of public employees by spreading risk among the self-funded insurance pool. However, township trustees were notified in early May that OPEC-HC was facing allegations of mismanagement and a multi-million dollar deficit.
In late August, Bath Township joined forces with the Stark County Combined General Health District and more than two dozen local government entities in litigation against OPEC-HC, its founder, Frank Harmon, and Harmon’s company, Ohio Insurance Services Agency Inc. The lawsuit, which was originally filed July 20, alleges fraudulent negligent misrepresentation, financial mismanagement and violation of state public record laws and open meetings laws. The governmental entities are also pursuing relief from any potential fines for leaving OPEC-HC and are asking for a full accounting of all money they have paid into the consortium.
Although the search process has been long and arduous for township trustees, Ross said he was pleased with the insurance package the King Agency submitted to township trustees. According to Ross, the insurance agency underwrote the township group as a whole, taking into account the health conditions of the township employees and their covering dependents. The insurance agency also opted out of the Ohio Health Insurance Exchange and shopped the marketplace for the best rates.
“By underwriting our group, the King Agency could show our actual usage. We have no significant health risks and are pretty easy to insure,” Ross said.
The King Agency compared several insurance plans with the township’s current plan and recommended a self-funded plan through the Southern Ohio Chamber Alliance (SOCA). Currently, SOCA has teamed up with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to administer this plan and to provide stop-loss coverage.
“In order for us to join this plan, we must join the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce which is a member of SOCA,” Ross said.
During the insurance selection process, township employees submitted a list of physicians, clinics, and medical centers they are currently using to township trustees. Ross entered the names into a search engine on the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield website in order to determine if they were part of the Anthem network. All three trustees then reviewed the results and made comparisons between the SOCA and OPEC-HC plans.
“A few names were not listed in the network, but I may have not entered all the names properly,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, you do lose a few physicians whenever you make a change in networks.”
Ross said OPEC-HC would be offering Affordable Care Act (ACA) fixed rates to those government entities that were renewing their contracts with the healthcare consortium for 2018. He noted that ACA rates are based on their products rather than the health status and other risk factors of the applicants. Thus, consumers within a certain geographic area are charged the same age-banded premiums.
“We will basically receive the same amount of coverage for about $55,000 less which is a good deal for everyone,” Ross said. “The township can also leave the group plan at the end of any month by providing a 30-day notice to SOCA.”
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.