Health board too late to exit county health insurance pool
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:39
The Wood County Board of Health wants out of the county health insurance plan - but waited too long to exit the pool this year.
After an executive session last week, the board of health voted to join the Ohio Public Entity Consortium for employee health insurance, starting Jan. 1, 2013.
However, the decision came more than a week after the legal deadline to do so.
Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar explained to the county commissioners Tuesday that the health department administration was well aware of the contract requirement that any agency wanting to exit the county plan must give the commissioners' office at least 60 days notice before the end of the plan year.
"We've communicated this with them for at least two years, maybe three," Kalmar said, noting that the health board has been considering the change for some time.
On Oct. 31, Wood County Health Commissioner Pam Butler sent an email to Pam Boyer, the county human resources and benefits manager, asking if the health board could miss the deadline and instead inform the commissioners on Nov. 9 after the monthly board meeting.
That same day, Boyer emailed back, reminding Butler that the 60-day notice is part of a legal agreement and could not be extended.
Butler was told, "you are legally bond to uphold the agreement we have," Kalmar said. "She knows the requirement."
However, on Nov. 9 the commissioners got a letter from Alice Davis, president of the health board, stating the board had decided to withdraw from the county insurance pool.
Kalmar explained that the reason for the 60-day notice is due to rates for the next year being based on the number of employees included.
Wood County Commissioner Jim Carter questioned the health board's timing. "They've been trying to do this the last two or three years," he said. Why not act in October, he asked.
Carter advised Kalmar to tell the health board it may exit the county insurance pool - in 2014.
The other commissioners agreed. "We can't accept their request for a change" after the deadline, Tim Brown said.
One health department employee attended the county commissioner meeting, on his own time, to explain the situation to the commissioners. He said the health department staff would like to remain in the county pool.
"The employees want to stick with the county policy," Jacque Varty said.
He said the staff was not informed of the proposed change until last Friday. "They keep everything in the dark until the last minute," he said.
The letter from Davis to the commissioners stated that the health department would see a $38,000 annual savings under the new health plan.
However, the email from Boyer to Butler pointed out that the contract requires that any withdrawing agency forfeit monies in the county insurance trust fund. That amount for the health department is more than $500,000.
"It would take 13 years to make it up," Wood County Commissioner Joel Kuhlman said of the projected annual savings.