By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators temporarily backed off a proposal Thursday to switch to a self-insured health plan for county employees.
While representatives from the Liverpool firm that would administer the plan EBS-RMSCO made a lengthy presentation about it that day, several county officials raised concerns that its projected $1.7 million in savings might be too risky to accept.
The use of the GHI provider network concerned Teamsters Local 445 Business Agent Sandy Shaddock and Legislator Jodi Goodman, who said there’s a high denial rate on claims, while Legislator David Sager, a chiropractor, added that he and other medical providers dropped GHI patients because of the company’s low reimbursement levels.
County Manager David Fanslau and EBS-RMSCO officials said the rate plan would be self-created and that GHI would only be used for its network users wouldn’t deal with GHI at all.
But the concerns expanded beyond GHI.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen worried about cash flow and insufficient reserves, since in a worst-case scenario the county would have to pay out more than it had on hand and the associated stop loss insurance backup would be a reimbursement (and the stop loss insurer could deny the claim).
But Fanslau and EBS-RMSCO pointed out that such a scenario is remote and that the county’s current health plan provider NYSHIP is raising its rates.
They added that the county’s maximum exposure would be $16.8 million before stop loss insurance kicked in, meaning the savings could be higher than $1.7 million.
“That $1.7 million cost avoidance is critically important to the 2012 budget that will be limited to raising $1.2 million from the property tax levy under the state’s property tax cap law,” Fanslau explained after the meeting.
Shaddock, however, wasn’t sure the savings were worth it and later discovered that NYSHIP’s rates may not go up as high as the county thought, thus reducing or perhaps even eliminating the potential savings.
She also didn’t have access to key documents until two days before Thursday’s meeting.
“I think this is possibly the worst move they could make,” Shaddock assessed.
Apparently, some legislators felt it was too soon, as well.
Goodman motioned to postpone the vote for a week, with Legislator Ron Hiatt seconding. Legislators Frank Armstrong, Kathy LaBuda and Dave Sager agreed, thus tabling the matter in a 5-4 vote.
A meeting is scheduled for later this week, but “beyond that,” warned Hiatt, noting an October 1 deadline, “we need to move. We can’t just sit on this.”
In other votes
• Legislators Frank Armstrong and Elwin Wood were the sole dissenters on a resolution to ask the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to double the comment period on its proposed gas drilling rules.
Wood agreed with Armstrong that a 90-day comment period was sufficient, rather than the 180 days the letter proposes.
“We need to put it to bed one way or another,” Wood said. “And I feel we have to have at least a little trust in our DEC.”
• Nearly 200 acres comprising the old Smallwood Golf Course have been turned over to the Bethel Local Development Corporation (BLDC).
The unanimous vote conveyed the 192 acres to the BLDC in exchange for the taxes, penalties and interest owed on the property.
The BLDC will investigate turning it into a small-scale housing development, and if it doesn’t commence such in three years, the acreage will revert to the county’s ownership.
• Legislators unanimously agreed to contract with IESI the current operator of the new materials recovery facility and transfer station at the former landfill in Monticello to handle its coming single-stream recycling.
Previously, Hudson Baylor was going to take care of such, but the county agreed to let IESI itself work out that deal with Hudson Baylor, which will transport the recyclables to its downstate processing facility.