A bid protest that has some city employees worrying they might not have health insurance come Jan. 1 goes before the Augusta Commission again today.
The protest, filed by Meritain Health Inc., stems from the commission’s 6-2-1 decision Oct. 16 to convert to a self-funded insurance pool administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, the city’s current provider.
Aetna subsidiary Meritain, one of five insurers that bid on the contract, alleged unfairness in the process, which ranked Meritain highest under technical criteria but not the best value overall for a city starting a self-funded platform.
Commissioner Alvin Mason, a critic of the deal, has cited Meritain’s high technical rankings and the appearance of a conflict on the part of the city’s insurance consultant, Lisa Kelley, who declared earlier in the process that she had a relationship with a Savannah, Ga.-based Blue Cross sales representative.
On Friday, Superior Court Judge J. David Roper denied Meritain’s request for an emergency injunction against Augusta moving forward with Blue Cross, but said the city could be at risk if it signs a contract with that company before the bid protest is resolved.
The commission has twice been unable to agree on whether to accept City Administrator Fred Russell’s recommendation to deny the protest. A vote to reject it failed 5-3-1 on Nov. 26, with Mason, Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Commissioner Bill Lockett voting no. Commissioner J.R. Hatney’s motion to delay going self-funded for a year also failed that day.
A week before, similar motions both to accept and reject Russell’s recommendation also failed, each 4-4-1.
On Monday, Mason, who works in federal contracts at Fort Gordon, said the city should enter into a month-to-month contract with an insurer until the protest and likely ensuing litigation is resolved.
Russell and Commissioner Jerry Brigham said such a contract would be costly. Brigham said the commission would likely have to amend the 2012 budget to cover the added cost.
Also at today’s 5 p.m. meeting, the commission will vote on the first phases of implementing a stormwater fee to cover the cost of repairing aging stormwater infrastructure. A committee agreed last week to the initial phases but did not set the fee amount, which typically is billed to property owners based on the square footage of surfaces impervious to water, such as rooftops and parking lots.