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Augusta Commission approves self-funded health insurance platform

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The Augusta Commission voted Tuesday to go to a self-funded employee health insurance platform, a move that will save the city more than $1 million, a consultant said.

The vote was 6-2-1, with commissioners Corey John­son and Alvin Mason opposed. J.R. Hatney abstained, and Joe Jackson was absent.

Mason said health insurance consultant Lisa Kelley’s personal connection to a Blue Cross Blue Shield sales representative created an “appearance of impropriety.”

At an earlier work session, Kelley said she had declared the relationship with a Savannah staffer in writing and that it hadn’t impacted her work, which she does for a flat rate. City Finance Di­rec­tor Donna Williams also denied there was any conflict.

The move means hiring another branch of Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is the city’s current provider of employee and dependent full coverage, to serve as the third-party administrator for the self-insured platform. The city will collect employee premiums, bank them and use them to pay claims with help from the administrator.

Blue Cross Blue Shield wasn’t the lowest bidder of four obtained by a committee that included Kelley, Williams and procurement staff, but it was the recommendation of the committee and City Administrator Fred Russell.

For each claim, the city is liable for up to $200,000 that it pays from the premium pool, up to a guaranteed maximum of $22.9 million, Kel­ley said. After that, separate stop-loss coverage kicks in.

Going self-insured means the city will be better able to manage claims, making them less, in part by reviewing them as they occur and by opening an on-site employee health clinic for employees and their dependents 14 and older, Kelley said. The clinic, originally included in remodeling plans for the Municipal Building, will be in a mobile building near the sheriff’s Walton Way headquarters, officials said Tuesday.

Commis­sioner Matt Aitken, who voted in favor of the proposal, said his employer’s on-site clinic was a great place for quick care for colds and other minor ailments.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles asked how a new wellness program offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield as a third-party administrator differed from the wellness program it currently offers.

Kelley said the city will now “dictate disease management” strategies, such as mammograms.

“You’re going to be in charge of how your benefits run,” she said. The platform also will get all employees on maintenance medications such as cholesterol reducing drugs on a mail-order program, she said.

In other business, the commission approved rezoning a 2.69-acre tract on Wallie Drive in Hephzibah for seasonal parking for the Plantation Blood haunted house. Numerous employees and neighbors showed up on either side of the issue.

Rep. Earnest Smith, who is in a re-election contest with Republican college student David Hopper called the attraction on a narrow dead-end road a “tinderbox” and a potential “litigator’s dream” should the worst happen at the three-year-old venue.

City Fire Chief Chris James said the venue met codes and could allow fire truck access so long as traffic control was in place. Owners Mark Jackson and Brian Carter said they hoped to open up Wallie Drive to To­­bac­co Road to increase access.

The commission postponed a vote on operating agreements related to the Augusta Convention Center to the next commission meeting. Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham said the agenda item was moved because it lacked six supporting votes.

Commissioner Grady Smith said he wanted to see the agreements approved so operator Augusta Riverfront could move forward with preparing for conventions booked at the center, starting in January.

“We’ve got a chance to shine in January and put our best foot forward,” Smith said. “We’re letting a few negative people spoil the show.”

The center has 13 events scheduled so far in 2013. It needs many more to avoid projected operating losses of $887,203 in its first year, detailed in a recent report from Augusta River­front, which shares management with Morris Commu­ni­cations Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

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Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 10/16/12 - 09:54 pm
4
0
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Grady Smith is wrong. The deal is bad. But what normal people do when deals are bad is sit down across a table and negotiate. You don't expect to get everything you want, but you expect to get something, some concessions from the other side.

Commissioner Smith should not just roll over for Paul Simon. They need to get in there and hammer out a better deal.

The thing about the food is laughable. Riverfront LLC and their "take it or leave it" deal has city taxpayers subsidizing the meals of the convention goers. Where else would you find such an absurdity? At least the food deal could be scrapped in negotiations. The convention organizers could choose any of the fine catering firms around town and not be locked into Riverfront's food fetishes. Why can't our commissioners see that?

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 10/16/12 - 09:58 pm
4
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Volume

Susan McCord reported:

The center has 13 events scheduled so far in 2013. It needs many more to avoid projected operating losses of $887,203 in its first year.

That's like the advertisements from the used car lots. The TV pitchman says, “Our prices are so low that we lose money on every sale — but we make it up on volume.”

dichotomy
32190
Points
dichotomy 10/16/12 - 11:06 pm
3
0
Well, so now we self-insure.

Well, so now we self-insure. I'm not sure of the wisdom here but at least we will supposedly save the $1 million a year it will take to pay the annual losses on Paul & Billy's TEE Center. Should we all thank our county employees for paying for the annual TEE Center losses with what will probably turn out to be not quite as good a health insurance?

Old Timmer
260
Points
Old Timmer 10/16/12 - 11:27 pm
4
0
Obvious Now

Weak argument Grady Smith. Donnie Smith dished the same excuse on the radio Tuesday. Agree to lose a Million $ so we don't lose face with these events already booked. Man you can sure tell who has thrown in with Deke & the downtown bankers, etc. The taxpayers are getting robbed if this goes forward.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
3099
Points
Karen Slater-McDaniel 10/16/12 - 11:58 pm
1
1
Does anyone other than me

Does anyone other than me feel like the County should NOT be handling premiums collected from County employees? Will these monies be held in an interest bearing trust account which cannot be touched except for the terms spelled out prior to start-up (i.e., it cannot be used at whim for any other project)? Who determines what testing can be done and at what age? Am I disqualified from having an annual mammogram since I do not have immediate family history of breast cancer? Will there be an oversight committee & will it be made up of physicians or the county commissioners? Etc etc etc ... these are just a few questions that should have been answered BEFORE the commission vote.

Just when I think nothing else the commission does could amaze me they put another rabbit out their butts!

shrimp for breakfast
5422
Points
shrimp for breakfast 10/17/12 - 08:37 am
1
1
Well

The county will save a million dollars but the people affected will have to dig deep into their already shallow pockets for health care.
I can't believe how bad the health care system is in this country. The insurance companies are making a fortune while the average Joe is not getting the health care they need. BUMMER!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/17/12 - 09:10 am
4
0
Regarding the TEE Center Vote Delay

It did not work for GRU and here y'all are dealing with Over Taxed Property Owners looking at yet another Sole Source sweet heart deal for a DOWNTOWN power click.

Look no further than Agreement Section 5.4 Maintenance
(parts a & b) It is kick back heaven. Management gets to hire who it wants without question for any repair under $20k. No requirement at all that repairs must documented, that at least 3 businesses must be called and how the best solution was arrived at. No requirement to even document repairs in detail. Plus no ethic restrictions on political recommendations and ties to the selection, the process or delivery of services. No requirement that a repair business must sign a statement indicating what was done and why it was needed.

Talk about an opportunity for abuse.
An this is just 1 item on the 8 pages of issues found in the Managers self written Agreement. It is just waiting for 6 Commissioners to get certain promises before signing it

It is beginning to look like the taxpayers need another IRA DAVIS type Lawsuit to bring this mess into the Open.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/17/12 - 09:44 am
4
0
A few last things today on the TEE Center Agreement

Did you know that ARTICLE VIII of the TEE Center Agreement has no restriction on the Contracted Manager from selling their duties to another company?

Did you know the Agreement does not restrict the sell, subcontracting of duties or operations to Augusta or CSRA area based and operated firms? There is not even a requirement that the Manager /Operator be an American based, owned and operated firm?

Do you know in Section 5.8 and many other sections, there are "You Can't Me, I am the Manager, Sue the County" type clauses? Worse the Agreement says the A-RC taxpayer must paid to be sued by the Manager win or lose? Read it yourself, the taxpayers are on the hook ALL Manager mistakes and have to pay legal costs while being sued.

Did you know there is no E-verify, or criminal background check clauses.

There are still more pages of Agreement issues.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 10/17/12 - 10:11 am
4
0
Great research, Open Curtain.

Thanks for publishing your findings here. The agreement was written by lawyers for Riverfront, LLC, and no city agent even participated. Why should we not be surprised that the lawyers paid by Riverfront, LLC wrote an agreement that protected Riverfront, LLC and put the city (i.e. taxpayers) to bear all financial burdens?

Paul Simon's "take it or leave it" deal must be dealt a death blow and then we must start over.

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 10/17/12 - 11:50 am
5
1
"Commissioner Grady Smith

"Commissioner Grady Smith said he wanted to see the agreements approved so operator Augusta Riverfront could move forward with preparing for conventions booked at the center, starting in January.

“We’ve got a chance to shine in January and put our best foot forward,” Smith said. “We’re letting a few negative people spoil the show.”

Does this remind you of the push to approve the TEE with threats the hotel wouldn't be built if the construction wasn't quickly approved? Have we not learned anything?

Riverman1
82451
Points
Riverman1 10/17/12 - 11:54 am
4
1
I believe the other hotels in

I believe the other hotels in the county should jointly bring a suit due to the location of the TEE, the management contract, the catering monopoly and parking deck that benefits the Marriott. The Marriott has even changed its name to reflect the connection to the TEE. It is now the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. Who told them they could use the name of the county owned center?

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 10/17/12 - 01:32 pm
4
0
Parking Deck

Yeah, and the little machine that gives you your parking ticket to park in the city-owned parking deck says “Welcome to the Marriott” on its display.

(Or at least it did when I went down there about a year ago and walked around the deck.)

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 10/17/12 - 08:38 pm
1
0
Back on "Most Disscussed"

It's funny how this thing popped back up on the Most Discussed list after being absent all afternoon and most of the morning.

The city is taking on more risk by self insuring, but sometimes risk is a good thing.

Since a fire station is closed for repairs, the city could just leave an engine parked at Plantation Blood. That should calm down the neighbors.

The commission is not acting responsibly by considering Paul Simon's offer as "yes or no," "take it or leave it." It's time to negotiate and get better terms; or, better yet, put the management deal out for bid and see what other management firms can propose. I'm sure someone will beat Riverfront's offer.

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