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County may combine health care

September 13, 2000

County may combine health care



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Washington County could save between $100,000 to $250,000 if it used the same heath care provider for county, School Board and Hagerstown Community College employees, according to a benefits consultant hired by the County Commissioners.

All three groups are currently insured by different providers.

The county spends about $17 million a year for health care. About $1.7 million of that is paid to providers for their service, consultant Michael Marchini said at a joint meeting Tuesday afternoon with the County Commissioners and the School Board.

The commissioners said they'd know by early spring how much, if any, the county would save by partnering all employees with the same provider. The commissioners plan to seek cost estimates through a bidding process from health insurance companies by the end of November. The bids should be in by early spring, when they'll be analyzed.

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While providers could change, the commissioners said the benefits would remain the same.

"We're not talking about changing any benefits," Commissioner Bert Iseminger said.

The School Board and college administrators, however, will have the choice of opting out of a partnership if they don't like what they see when the bids come in, the commissioners said.

"You guys can say you don't want to play the game," Iseminger said.

The School Board had concerns about whether retired employees would still receive benefits under a new provider, whether the cost of co-pays would increase and the possibility of its employees rejecting a switch in providers.

Board member B. Marie Byers said the Board is committed to providing health insurance to retired employees and cannot renege on its agreement.

Board member Edwin Hayes said he'd "feel more comfortable" if the School Board did not make a decision when the bids come until it first receives a recommendation from the board's Health Care Cost Committee.

"We got a lot of people that we have to bring into this process," Hayes said. "We have to have that dialogue or we're going to run into a lot of problems."

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