2013-11-28 / Front Page

Switch equals savings

County dumps BCBS for co-op insurance

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners has voted to switch the insurance carrier for the county – opting for a smaller increase in health insurance premium than originally planned. The switch was made during a recent regular meeting.

The county has been a longtime user of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, but was recently faced with an approximate 46 percent increase in premium for the 2014 fiscal year. Vincent Babcock, of Employee Benefits Agency, Inc., in Marquette, explained during the meeting that the county would be paying around $810,358 for the 2014 BCBS plan.

As an alternative, a plan from the new co-op health insurance organization, Consumer’s Mutual Insurance of Michigan, would run the county around $683,164 in 2014. This would equate to an approximate 13 percent increase over the 2013 fiscal year – or a $127,194 savings over the BCBS plan.

Per the county’s insurance committee, a plan opting for CMI coverage, supplemented with Delta Dental and a VSP Signature vision plan, was recommended.

“We talked about leaving the Blues and going with a brand new company,” Commissioner Dan LaFoille said. “It’s a big move for us, but it’s very difficult from all of our points of view, the employees and employer, Schoolcraft County, to turn your back on $100,000-plus savings.”

Employees will be responsible for a 15 percent contribution to the premium, not including the plan’s taxes and fees, which will be covered by the county. “It works out well for both the county and the employees on their contribution levels,” Babcock said. CMI is part of a larger umbrella network called MultiPlan, Babcock explained, and all but one hospital in the U.P. accepts the insurance.

“CMI’s got probably the second largest owned network in Michigan at this point, right behind blue cross blue shield,” he said. “They have every hospital provider on plan except for OSF (St. Francis Hospital), which is in Escanaba.”

As of the meeting time, he said OSF had not yet signed an agreement with the insurance provider, but a deal was likely. Babcock added until an agreement is reached, OSF is considered “alternative network”, but not “out-of-network”. This means reimbursement will be slower, but it will come, he explained.

One of the big differences in coverage is employees will no longer need a doctor’s referral to visit another physician or specialist out-of-network. Employees will need to check hospitals, however, to ensure they are part of the CMI or Multiplan network.

CMI is also letting employees roll over their deductibles, except co-insurance out-of-network, from BCBS until Jan. 1, when a new deductible will need to be met.

“We’re going to be changing carriers, so I’m not going to say that there’s absolutely not going to be any hiccups,” Babcock said. “We’ll work through them, and we’ll be fine.”

Schoolcraft County Clerk Dan McKinney noted the county will see a “significant savings” by switching, since commissioners had budgeted for a possible insurance increase of 30 percent.

“We’re going to get a little bonus,” LaFoille added.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve signing a contract with CMI, with a Dec. 1 start date.

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