County OKs insurance change

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission adopted changes recommended by its insurance broker and insurance review committee that attempts to close a $2.5 million deficit in health-related expenses while maintaining employee benefits Monday.

The 5-1 vote means that come Jan. 1, employees will have some design changes to their existing health care plans, County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard said.

The changes come over the objections and pleas from local AFLAC agent Chris Glover, who reiterated his problems with the county's Insurance Review Committee's process in excluding input from local vendors.

"Why was the our local business community not asked to participate?" Glover asked the commission during an address at Monday's meeting. "What message are we sending when we turn our decisions over to consultants from out-of-town or out-of-state?"

Glover first brought forth his objections to the bid process Aug. 30, when he asked the commission for consideration to submit a bid proposal.

Glover maintains that, had he or other local vendors, been given an opportunity to pitch the committee their best products and rates, that some of the controversial portions of the policy changes may have been avoided.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis, who serves as chairman of the county's Insurance Review Committee, said that he had reviewed the process used by the county's broker -- Wells Fargo -- and determined that it was objective and that "introducing proposed price changes this late in the process would interfere with the integrity of the entire process."

Still, the plan changes mean an increase in premiums for county employees both as the cost of many of the options have increased and as the county shifts its cost sharing numbers to ones that are more in-line with national averages.

As adopted, changes to the plans and structure should translate into a $1.4 million savings to the county. That number includes savings experienced when an audit showed 47 spouses and two children were receiving benefits even though county officials say they were ineligible.

The county will continue to offer $500 and $1,000 deductibles to its employees through the changes, officials say.