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Request for temporary stay on Augusta health care insurance contract denied

City can award contract despite bid protest

Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 8:02 PM
Last updated Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 1:23 AM
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A request for an emergency injunction to prevent Augusta’s city administrator from immediately signing a contract for employee health insurance was denied Friday afternoon.

In his ruling denying the motion filed by Meritain Health, Superior Court Judge J. Da­vid Roper said that the Augusta Commission is set to vote on the company’s bid protest next week and that the decision needs to be made before any legal challenge.

Roper cautioned city officials present Friday that the city could be at risk if it signs a contract with Blue Cross Blue Shield before the issue of Meritain’s bid protest is concluded.

On behalf of the city, attorney Jody Smitherman told the judge that although City Admin­is­tra­tor Fred Russell is negotiating with Blue Cross Blue Shield, he will not sign a contract unless the city has an escape clause to void the contract if Meritain prevails.

Meritain’s local counsel, Wil­liam Keogh, argued that the commission’s decision last month to award the contract to Blue Cross Blue Shield was made with only half the facts and after an unfair bidding process.

Keogh argued that Meri­tain’s bid was rated the highest quality and at the lowest cost by the city’s selection committee, but then the city asked for a new pricing system. To accurately determine that new price, the bidders needed more information – information that only Blue Cross Blue Shield had because of its previous health coverage of city employees.

Smitherman said the city sought additional pricing information because commissioners were most concerned about the full possible liability the city faces as a self-insurer.

Blue Cross Blue Shield came out better with that cost, and the city learned Meritain would charge additional fees for several services, she said.

The request for additional information had nothing to do with the city’s health insurance consultant’s personal relationship with an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which commissioners knew about before their vote, Smith­er­man said.

“The last thing we need is 4,700 people running around without health benefits,” she said.

If the city and Blue Cross Blue Shield enter into a contract and the commission or the courts find the bid protest should be granted, the contract would be voided and the bid process would have to begin from scratch, which could take months.

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Riverman1 12/01/12 - 08:14 am

Why do I feel like Augusta is about to lose lots of money...again?

OpenCurtain 12/01/12 - 09:38 am
I don't see both sides going to war

and A-RC in the middle at this time. I do see politically motivated attempts to rebid it in follow-up years. Besides any continued lawsuit efforts would spoil the rebid process down the road.

For the A-RC commissioners to tackle one of the most expensive budget items and actually do something for a change had saves taxpayers $$$, is a great thing to see. How it was accomplished is another discussion.

Healthcare is very expensive no matter who the employer.
The problem is compounded by the requirement to provide a realistic level of service at the best price, while covering workers and their families in a manner they can also afford.

Will it work out?
Time will tell and Trust the AC comments section to present cases and details as they come to life. When the AC posts an article to allow so.

soapy_725 12/01/12 - 10:41 am
Get aboard the ARC. The flood is on the way.

The sewers are backing up.

OpenCurtain 12/01/12 - 11:21 am
To the Thumbs Down on Any Thing Voter

You are re-enforcing my belief, there are in fact some people that vote without knowing or reading what they are voting on.

Vote me or anyone up or down, but at least share a reason for the vote like many of us do.

Join us in banter, don't snip.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 12/01/12 - 06:02 pm
Drama Queen

Why does Fred (What, me worry?) Russell have to turn what should be straightforward and routine into a big drama every time? Augusta cannot even count the number of lawsuits it has been in during Russell's tenure. In most of them the city has ended up paying big time.

After Judge Overstreet said the city was violating state law by not accepting the lowest qualified bidder, the Procurement Department has come up with shenanigan after shenanigan to sneak around that law. Here we see it again. They put out a bid package and Meritain submitted the lowest bid. That wasn't supposed to happen, so the Procurement Dept. came back in and changed the rules.

Our city is corrupt to the core. Fred Russell and Geri Sams need to be terminated. Such a move would be racially fair and balanced.

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