Published On: Thu, May 22nd, 2014

Health insurance issues resurface for board

Obamacare once again reared its ugly head, not in the newspapers or on TV, but this time at the Pierce County Commissioner meeting held Monday, May 12.

The board has listened at prior meetings to representatives of Blue Cross-Blue Shield (BC-BS) Health Insurance, the carrier of the county’s current health plan, about changes that are coming because of Obamacare. The board has been operating under the assumption that the best way to go for county employees is with BC-BS.

BC-BS is made affordable for counties who belong to Nebraska Association of County Officials (NACO) because NACO always negotiates with BC-BS to keep rates as low as possible.

At the meeting held on Monday, Josh Sirek of Town & Country Insurance of Pierce gave the board information that made them uncertain about what the county employees should be covered with. Sirek talked to the board about a government subsidized plan named CoOportunity. According to Sirek, the CoOportunity Plan is similar to BC-BS and, in some instances, better. The frosting on the cake is that the CoOportunity Plan would save the county $126,608 a year.

Sirek told the board CoOportunity has a PPO network associated with Midlands Choice. He said 100% of hospitals and 97% of doctors accept Midlands Choice and the policy also has Avera Hospital in Yankton in the network. Sirek said he writes a lot of companies, including BC-BS, so he is familiar with most health insurance plans. Sirek added that employees at Town & Country are covered by CoOportunity.

The board questioned Sirek about rates and asked if rates would go up after they join. Sirek told them that rates could not go up until renewal time and at that time, if rates go up higher than BC-BS, the county could drop out and go back to BC-BS.

One big difference between CoOportunity and BC-BS is that CoOportunity is age-related. The older an employee is, the higher the rate. For instance, Sirek said, the rate for a 55-year-old who is a non-smoker is $489.04 per month and a 65-year-old is $657.90 per month. He said, however, the rate for BC-BS is $700 a month for everyone in the group, no matter how old they are.

Rick Sirek spoke to the board “just as a taxpayer.” He said he did not understand why anyone would not want to save $126,000. He explained that he is not fighting against BC-BS, but he is fighting for the taxpayer. Sirek suggested the board save the $126,000 this year and if they are not satisfied, go back to BC-BS after that.

Commissioner Terry Wragge told Sirek that he attended an insurance meeting during the prior week and at that meeting “a guy” from Nance County said they (the county) has CoOportunity now, but as soon as renewal comes up, they (Nance County) are going back to BC-BS. Wragge said before they make any decisions, he thinks they should call and talk to Nance County to find out why.

Pick up this week’s issue of the Osmond Republican to read more!