BATH TOWNSHIP – As 2017 draws to an end, the Bath Township Board of Trustees are tying up a number of loose ends regarding the township’s outgoing healthcare plan for township employees and their dependents.
During the Dec. 20 township meeting, the board of trustees addressed some prevailing issues with Jefferson Health Plan, the insurance administrator for the Ohio Public Entity Consortium- Healthcare Cooperative (OPEC-HC).
Following an executive session that included Greene County Assistant District Attorney Stephanie Hayden, Bath Township Trustee President Steve Ross announced that the board of trustees would not be making a lump-sum payment to Jefferson Health Plan that would cover a large cash deficit and all runout claims.
“The board decided to add $8,000 to the temporary appropriation budget that takes it from $3,000 to $11,000 which will cover our obligations through the first quarter of 2018. Then we will see what the attorneys said at that point,” Ross said. “What we do know is that we owe them (Jefferson Health Plan) some money which is based on a large part of what our claims are.”
Township Trustee Tom Pitstick also noted that the monies payed to Jefferson Health Plan would be placed in a third-party escrow account.
“The court will then decide how much money Jefferson Health Plan will receive.” Pitstick said.
According to Township Trustee John Martin, Jefferson Health Plan presented the township with estimates for the runout claims and “actuary numbers” for the township’s share of OPEC-HC’s large deficit that came to a combined total of $37,416.36.
“Bear in mind, the new healthcare plan we are now going with in 2018 is a huge cost savings, compared to what we were paying with OPEC-HC,” said Martin.
Martin made a motion to abandon the temporary appropriation of $3,000 to allocate an additional $8,000 for insurance, seconded by Pitstick. The motion unanimously passed.
The board of trustees also approved Martin’s motion to notify the township’s attorney and Jefferson Health Plan regarding the township’s decision not to join the runout claims pool and to fund the township’s reserve obligations in installments.
In May, OPEC-HC announced that the cost of claims from its members had exceeded the amount of premium contributions, resulting in millions of dollars in deficits. The self-funded cooperative was also hit with allegations of mismanagement and legal claims of fraud, breach of contract and illegal operations.
In a formal letter addressed to the OPEC-HC Board of Directors in late June, township trustees officially withdrew their contractual commitment with the self-insured healthcare cooperative when the township’s three-year contract expires on Dec. 31. However, departing OPEC-HC members, including Bath Township, have been charged thousands of dollars under the withdrawal condition that all members must pay their share of any cash deficit.
During the Aug. 30 township meeting, the board of trustees approved retaining Paul-Michael La Fayette, an attorney with Columbus-based Isaac Wiles Burkholder & Teetor, LLC., to intervene on behalf of the township in the ongoing litigations with OPEC-HC, the Ohio Insurance Services Agency, and the agency’s president and OPEC-HC founder, Frank Harmon.
The Board of the Stark County Combined General Health District filed the original lawsuit against the healthcare cooperative and its operator in the Stark County Common Pleas Court on July 17. The claim alleges fraudulent negligent misrepresentation, financial mismanagement, and violation of state public record laws and Ohio’s open meetings laws. In addition, the plaintiff is asking for relief from any impending fines and a complete account of all monies the health department has paid into OPEC-HC.
Ross pointed out that during the time Bath Township joined forces with the Stark County General Health District in its lawsuit against OPEC-HC and Frank Harmon, approximately 25 local government entities, who received health insurance coverage through OPEC-HC, filed a motion to intervene in the case. Now, Ross noted, there are 40 government entities participating in the lawsuit. Court proceedings are scheduled to begin in May.
Ross also stated that the township had recently held a meeting with township employees to discuss the new healthcare package and to answer any questions.
“We are moving forward nicely with the new plan, and we are starting to receive our new cards,” Ross said. “We are very optimistic about this choice.”
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.