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Committee formed to study health-care consortium

November 28, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Council of Governments on Wednesday took a step toward forming a benefits consortium in an effort to gain more leverage with health-care insurance providers.

The council voted to form a committee to further explore the idea, naming Waynesboro (Pa.) Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger as chairman. Representatives from Chambersburg, Washington and Antrim Townships, Franklin County government and other municipalities also are likely to be represented on the committee.

"With our size, we think we can add a little leverage and give us a pretty good negotiating position with some of the providers," said John Aguirre, the human resources director for the county. With approximately 600 full-time employees, the county would be the largest member of a consortium.

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"We're all getting hammered by it," Antrim Township Administrator Benjamin Thomas Jr. said of health-care costs, which have been rising at several times the inflation rate in recent years. Several local governments reported increases of 20 to 30 percent or more in their most recent contracts.

"It's really getting tough because that's the industry that is driving the train right now," Aguirre said. Chambersburg Borough Manager Eric Oyer said last week the cost of health insurance for the borough's 185 employees now exceeds the cost of running the fire department.

One possible obstacle is that municipalities have contracts that are tied to union contracts and take effect or expire at different times, said David Finch, Chambersburg's assistant borough manager. The level of benefits offered by municipalities also differs, he said.

Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said it should not be necessary for each local government to offer the identical coverage to form a consortium.

If a consortium is formed, Christopher said last week it is unlikely to have any effect on premiums until 2005, since most municipalities already have negotiated contracts with health-care providers.

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