BATH TOWNSHIP — The Bath Township Board of Trustees has reach a settlement agreement with a former healthcare provider as part of an ongoing litigation process between more than two dozen Ohio governmental entities and a self-insured healthcare consortium.
During the March 6 township meeting, trustees unanimously voted to participate in a proposed settlement agreement with Jefferson Health Plan, which once served as the healthcare administrator for the Ohio Public Entity Consortium Healthcare Cooperative (OPEC-HC).
In 2017, an attorney representing Jefferson Health Plan, Mark Jackson, claimed that OPEC-HC had failed to pay the healthcare administrator for claims the company had paid on behalf of OPEC-HC members. Jefferson Health Plan alleges that all 157 members of OPEC-HC, including Bath Township, are responsible for a portion of that cash deficit.
“The agreement between OPEC-HC and Jefferson Health Plan bellied up, leaving all 157 Ohio entities in the lurch,” Township Trustee Steve Ross said.
Pursuant to the agreement, the township will pay Jefferson Health Plan $11,470.59. This dollar amount represents 41.1 percent of the township’s share of the deficit, which adds up to $27,905.93. Ross said Jefferson Health Plan prorated the settlement amount based on a headcount of nine township employees participating in the healthcare consortium as of Dec. 31, 2017. As part of the deal, Jefferson Health Plan will also release the township from further obligations towards the healthcare administrator’s deficit.
The settlement agreement has come more than a year after the township joined forces with the Stark County Combined General Health District and approximately 25 entities that received health insurance coverage through OPEC-HC in a legal battle against OPEC-HC, the Ohio Insurance Services Agency, and the agency’s president and OPEC-HC founder, Frank Harmon.
“This is a wonderful thing compared to where we were originally,” Ross said, in reference to the settlement agreement.
According to Ross, the township also paid Jefferson Health Plan $19,028.02, to process any runout claims that occurred through the end of December 2017. Township Fiscal Officer Elaine Brown noted that the provider used a formula to determine a dollar amount, and the company billed the township up front the first five months of 2018.
“We didn’t have that much usage which resulted in an overpayment to Jefferson Health Plan of $8,819.65,” said Ross. “We met with the attorneys a few months ago, and they suggested that we send a letter requesting that money to Jefferson Health Plan that the attorneys drew up, and we signed. That letter was sent.”
Ross pointed out that the proposed settlement payment and the overpayment to Jefferson Health Plan are two different issues that the township is dealing with separately. He also noted that the fiscal officer had set aside the money to pay Jefferson Health Plan when a settlement agreement was finalized. However, the township will wait to move forward with that payment until trustees receive a confirmation letter from the township’s attorney. He added that the next step for the township is to continue with the litigation process with OPEC-HC and its operator.
Bath Township joined OPEC-HC in 2014 after Harmon told trustees that the self-insured entity would lower insurance costs by spreading the risk among thousands of public employees. In May 2017, trustees learned about the allegations of mismanagement within OPEC-HC that resulted in approximately $14 million in deficits. At that time, OPEC-HC officials asserted that the total cost of filed claims had exceeded the amount of premium contributions.
In June 2017, the board of trustees sent a letter of intent to withdraw from OPEC-HC when the township’s contract expired at the end of the year. However, Ross pointed out to the board that the township would be penalized as part of the withdrawal agreement.
The Board of the Stark County Combined General Health District filed a lawsuit against OPEC-HC and its operator in the Stark County Common Pleas Court July 17, 2017. The claim alleged fraudulent negligent misrepresentation, financial mismanagement, and violation of state public record laws and Ohio’s open meetings laws.
During a township meeting in August 2017, trustees approved a motion to join the 25 Ohio entries and retain 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, Harmon. La Fayette continues to represent the township in the ongoing litigations.
The Bath Township Board of Trustees will meet again in regular session 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at the township office, 1006 Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road, Fairborn.
Linda Collins is a freelance writer for Greene County News.