Butler County commissioners hire new health insurance broker after issues

Things to know about Butler County, including history and facts.

In the wake of a glitch last year that prevented the Butler County commissioners from switching to a lower-risk health insurance plan, they have hired a new broker to help them navigate the unpredictable benefit market.

The commissioners approved a three-year $292,500 contract with the McGohan Brabender Agency on Monday, effectively ending a long-standing relationship with HORAN. The contract can be extended for another year at a cost of $103,800 and $51,900 for six months after that. The county was paying HORAN $82,776 annually compared to $97,500 for the new company.

Human Resources Director Laurie Murphy said they received 10 proposals for the consulting job and HORAN was not one of them. The new company will perform a host services for the county involving insurance that costs around $20 million annually, something that has gotten tricky with the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID has changed the course of healthcare claims that we’re still trying to evaluate the implications of people not being able to seek care and what impact that may have on our claims going forward next year,” Murphy said. “That’s some of the strategies we rely on our broker to evaluate, trends, market, best practices, benchmarking, things like that.”

The consultant change was prompted by an issue last year when the commissioners tried to make a switch from self-insurance to a lower risk, traditional policy, they had to rescind the contract because a lawsuit was threatened.

The commissioners approved a fully insured plan through the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio (CEBCO) with Anthem in October and then two weeks later rescinded that contract and approved staying with United Healthcare for another year at a cost of $21.2 million. United Healthcare threatened to sue because HORAN didn’t put out a request for proposals so the process was deemed flawed.

County Administrator Judi Boyko said the request for proposals for the new broker wasn’t necessarily premised on finding the best price, it was about service. She said the group of stakeholders representing the sheriff, county auditor and others that evaluated the proposals unanimously recommended hiring McGohan Brabender.

“You don’t go by lowest bid, it’s not a qualifying thing,” Boyko said. “It’s based on the proposal and their proposal based on the stakeholder group that we convened, was the most responsive, comprehensive on how they intend to address some of the county’s needs.”

McGohan Brabender will be helping the commissioners develop a multi-year strategy for handling health care and managing costs.

The county went to a self-insurance model in 2017 after several years of double-digit percentage increases for insurance coverage. Some large, unusual claims over several years drove those increases, including a single $5 million claim in 2013 and a $3 million claims month in November 2014.

The commissioners at the time said they wanted more control over their costs but Commissioner Don Dixon said when they wanted to switch back to traditional last year the cost difference between self-insurance and traditional coverage was negligible when figuring in reduced risk. Under self insurance the county paid an administrative fee and claims out of county coffers.

He said it will depend what the new consultant recommends but he is leaning toward the more secure coverage.

“My preference long-term is to get back to traditional,” Dixon said. “But we haven’t had the right time or the right circumstances to be able to do it, or the right number.”

In her 2022 tax budget guidance Finance Director Angel Burton asked the various office holders. department heads and independent boards to budget a 12% increase for health and 5% hike for dental insurance. She told the Journal-News they hope the hike is a “worst-case scenario.”

“We chose the higher increases due to the uncertainty related to the health insurance industry and a projected influx of medical procedures that were delayed due to COVID-19,” Burton said. “Our dental rates have been locked in the past two years and will be up for renewal in 2022.”