The health insurance plan that covers some 5,500 active and retired Augusta employees and their dependents will remain under Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, despite a lawsuit that forced the plan to be re-bid.
Augusta commissioners agreed with Wells Fargo consultant Roger Holden’s recommendation Tuesday that BCBS was again the best choice to administer the city’s self-funded insurance pool, starting Jan. 1 at a guaranteed maximum cost of $21.2 million, over providers HealthScope and Meritain Health.
Commissioner Bill Lockett, who with Commissioner Alvin Mason called out the city’s former health insurance consultant last year for having a relationship with a Savannah BCBS employee, urged his colleagues to wait before voting, but they declined. The bid award passed at a called meeting 8-1 with Lockett opposed and Mason absent.
Holden said BCBS’s maximum fixed cost was lower than the other two and offered the best discounts. The firm has the largest network of providers in the area, he said, and scored the highest among the city’s procurement criteria.
The bid award fulfills the requirement of a June order by Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, who ruled in favor of Meritain, which filed suit last year alleging procurement errors after it lost the bid to BCBS.
Roper’s order blasted the city for including an “11th hour” requirement that the policy be a “no lasering” plan, meaning it can’t treat high-risk employees or their dependents differently, then refusing to provide data BCBS already had. He also noted former health consultant Lisa Kelley’s stated relationship with a BCBS salesman, which she had acknowledged in writing.
The city’s latest request for proposals included “no lasering” in its name. The bid award does not resolve the litigation, however, and Meritain has demanded the city pay its legal bills of some $431,000. City Administrator Fred Russell said that issue remains unresolved.