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Judge orders city to rebid employee health insurance contract

Thursday, June 27, 2013 1:06 AM
Last updated 12:17 PM
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Richmond County Super­i­or Court Judge David Rop­er blasted the Augusta Commission and city procure­ment department in a Wednes­day order demanding the city re-bid its new employee health insurance contract.

Roper’s order instructs the city to seek new bids from insurance providers for a contract to start Jan. 1 and terminate its existing agreement with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia at that time, to ensure no interruption of coverage for the city’s 2,400 employees and their families.

The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Aetna subsidiary Meritain Health over Augusta’s award of the contract to administer a new self-funded health insurance pool, valued in excess of $20 million, to Blue Cross, the city’s existing provider.

Meritain protested the bid award last year, but the commission voted to deny the company’s protest and gave the contract to Blue Cross, on the recommendation of an internal selection committee that included Procurement Director Geri Sams and Wells Fargo insurance consultant Lisa Kelley.

Meritain alleged that procurement engaged in “11th hour” manipulation of the bid award, changing contract terms and ranking criteria to benefit Blue Cross, and Roper agreed.

“Simply put, Ms. Sams, Ms. Kelley and the selection committee changed the rules at the 11th hour to require no lasering at inception, and decided that Total Maximum Costs was the driving factor,” he wrote.

“No lasering” refers to an insurance practice that divides employees into low- and high-risk groups, covering each differently.

When the “no lasering” requirement was introduced, Aetna vice president of public sector sales Marcus Duckworth complained in two e-mails that only Blue Cross had access to recent claims data to formulate an accurate bid.

“The court finds that Meritain was prejudiced thereby,” Roper said.

He also points to Kelley’s romantic involvement with Blue Cross sales representative Mark Dukes throughout the process, citing Commissioner Alvin Mason’s questioning of Kelley about the relationship during commission meetings.

“I find it difficult to swallow that the one consultant that we have has a relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield in this manner,” Mason said, citing the appearance of a conflict.

From there, Sams failed to provide a written report about why Blue Cross was the chosen bidder, and commissioners had scant evidence to consider when they voted 6-3 on Dec. 5 to deny Meritain’s protest.

City Administrator Fred Russell, who was named in Meritain’s original complaint, said Wednesday that he was unaware of the judge’s order and recalled little of last year’s insurance bid protest.

City General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie declined to comment on the pending litigation, but did note the order provided for no lapse in insurance coverage.

“It’s hard to predict what will happen in these cases,” he said.

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L A Williams
63
Points
L A Williams 06/27/13 - 03:37 am
5
0
Business as usual

I see nothing ever changes in Augusta. Nobody ever knows or remembers nothing and no one is in charge.

jmo
16667
Points
jmo 06/27/13 - 05:05 am
4
0
If you have a City Administrator.....

that can't remember back 12 months on an item of this importance, maybe we should have a new City Administrator.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 06/27/13 - 12:44 pm
4
0
It is beyond my cpmprehension
Unpublished

It is beyond my comprehension how Mr. Russell keeps his job. I suppose it may be out of fear that he's the only one who would take on this boondoggle of city government.

Little Lamb
46885
Points
Little Lamb 06/27/13 - 07:41 am
2
0
Straight Shooter

Judge Roper is honest and fair. Sadly, though, he is merely a judge. He wrote his order, but it will be up to Fred (I know nuh-tink) Russell and Geri Sams to implement the order. Those two are the ones who made the mess in the first place regarding the health insurance award. How can they be expected to act honorably the second time, when they have been so dishonorable for so long?

soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 06/27/13 - 07:52 am
0
0
soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 06/27/13 - 07:54 am
0
0
soapy_725
43757
Points
soapy_725 06/27/13 - 07:58 am
0
0
All human government is corrupt. Wake up, smell the poo poo.
Unpublished

All the voting in the world has not changed the course of American History. And it will not. Individual relationships with Jesus Christ is the only answer. A massive number of "heart transplants" is necessary.

allhans
23998
Points
allhans 06/27/13 - 08:41 am
1
0
Geri Sams? I thought she

Geri Sams? I thought she left.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 06/27/13 - 09:39 am
1
0
Issue of word count?

It would be good to have a paragraph summarizing the Commission discussion / votes on this issue during past weeks. Context, please.

A cursory review of AC archives reveals the general counsel and city administrator got this wrong; displaying similar levels of incompetence as deals done past. And, select commissioners (i.e., the new, anti-anything Lockett league) followed right along, as if they were subjects in a Konrad Lorenz study.

smh.

Sweet son
10729
Points
Sweet son 06/27/13 - 12:07 pm
1
0
Clean House!!!

Fred and the top management in the Procurement Department MUST go. The Commissioners should be infuriated with this type of incompetence. There is no place in our government for these people. Stand by and watch who is protected and who offers this protection. It won't be a surprise.

corgimom
33983
Points
corgimom 06/27/13 - 03:49 pm
2
0
Little Lamb, don't insult

Little Lamb, don't insult Sgt. Shultz.

When I think of Fred, I think of "Thank God my mother isn't here to see this."

Now, that sets a standard of professionalism that is truly superb. That is what the City Manager of a city of 200,000 thinks. A big mama's boy. I think of him as the Howard Sprague of Augusta.

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