The Gregg County Commissioners Court approved a change to employee health insurance Thursday despite a concern raised among some members about a lack of time to perform research.
Commissioners heard from Dawn Brinson with Brinson Benefits, a consultant that’s worked with the county for two years.
The item from Brinson that generated the most discussion was whether the county should award a contract for medical and dental plan administration to Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said the county has contracted with Healthcare Highways for two years and has received numerous complaints from employees about the company and its delay in processing claims.
County employees were being contacted by their health care providers to ask why payment hadn’t been made, he said.
“Healthcare Highways was not processing (claims), and they were bundling them up. Instead of doing it for every one, they’d wait till they got hundreds and then they’d process it,” Stoudt said.
He appointed a committee made up of himself, human resources, purchasing, auditing and Brinson to consider options for the county’s health care administrator.
And in January, Brinson was instructed to seek bids for a company that could replace Healthcare Highways, Stoudt said.
According to Stoudt, 33 companies submitted bids — the most it’s ever received for an employee insurance contract.
Three weeks ago, Brinson presented the bids to Stoudt and offered to seek a lower price if he was willing to “press the time.” He agreed and told her to seek a lower bid.
Pct. 3 Commissioner Floyd Wingo said the packet of information regarding the insurance change had only been given to commissioners two days before Thursday’s meeting, and he believed there wasn’t enough time for them to make an informed decision. Wingo questioned why commissioners weren’t told about the change sooner.
He was echoed by Pct. 1 Commissioner Ronnie McKinney, who agreed that two days was insufficient for commissioners to read and fully understand the plans and information presented to them by Brinson.
Wingo added that further research should be done to determine if BCBS is the best option. He also questioned why commissioners weren’t given updates about what the Stoudt-appointed committee was doing.
Stoudt said as part of the committee, he knew of the plan to change to BCBS for some time. Wingo said it didn’t make sense for Stoudt to have been the only one with prior knowledge while commissioners were blindsided with the information the same week of the vote.
Stoudt explained his decision to have Brinson seek lower bids and took responsibility for commissioners not being told sooner.
He said the committee had only come to the decision this past Friday, and had he not chosen to push for a lower bid, it could’ve been brought to commissioners weeks ago.
But Stoudt said his decision to do so led to a lower cost for the county.
He said after the meeting that the county was paying, on average, $1,100 per employee. With the new BCBS contact, that price would lower to about $700 per employee.
He told commissioners that even if they extended the vote by a week, it was likely none of them would be any closer to understanding the extent of the insurance plans. He asked them to vote on the contract and if they had concerns, they could be addressed next year when the issues comes up again.
Wingo asked what kind of deadline commissioners would have to perform research if they decided to table the item Thursday, and Brinson said only about a week.
Commissioners eventually unanimously approved the contract.
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