Hendry ditches old, goes with new health insurance provider

The Hendry County Board voted unanimously at its regular meeting in Clewiston on Aug. 14 to contract with a new health insurance carrier, which could result in a nearly unheard-of savings to county taxpayers of up to $86,000, possibly even more, in the first year.

Deputy County Administrator Jennifer Davis, who’s been working on the issue alongside a county insurance advisory board with the advice of a private health agency, gave a detailed report to commissioners about the results of their request for proposals on health insurance for county employees.

“The committee came together and ranked proposals that we received. United Healthcare was ranked the number one proposer,” she said. Hendry County’s current insurer is Public Risk Management of Florida (PRM) and, already anticipating an increase greater than inflation, the board had directed county staff to seek other proposals.

“PRM gave us a renewal, separately. You will see that PRM came in at a 6 percent increase over our current year (cost). And United, after they were ranked the number one firm, our insurance broker, who is here tonight as well as United … went into a negotiation period with United Healthcare to see if they could get a better rate than even what was proposed,” Ms. Davis explained.

She provided the board with an extensive summary of the details, saying United’s medical premium overall was 3.16 percent lower than the renewal rate of PRM for medical only, and that its total premium was 2.83 percent lower for all lines, which include vision, dental and life as well as medical, “or an $86,000-and-some-change savings in premium overall. Again, that includes all premium, for the board (commissioners) and for what the employees pay. These are for base plans; three other, more comprehensive options are available for employees, but they pay the difference for those higher-priced plans,” Ms. Davis added.

She also said even more savings were possible for employees who choose those more comprehensive plans, putting United’s premiums for them at 9 percent to 11 percent less than those of other proposers.

After some discussion with commissioners, Ms. Davis then gave the floor to broker Derren Bryan, chief operating officer of the county’s agency, Albritton Insurance, to answer any other questions the commissioners had.

Commissioner Karson Turner had a few, and one was, “What was the temperature in the room among the committee; were they on board with this? My goal is not for a one-year reduction to be increased tremendously,” he added. Mr. Turner noted that the commission several years previously had set a priority to monitor how employees were using the insurance but said “it’s not being done and can’t be with an HR department of one.”

In response, he was assured that would be an easier task with United Healthcare and learned from Mr. Bryan that Albritton would assist in that function.

Mr. Turner then made a motion to accept the ranking of United Healthcare and authorize the insurance committee, Mr. Bryan and Albritton, and county staff to negotiate and try to get even better rates. Commissioner Michael Swindle enthusiastically seconded.

Mr. Bryan said: “We’ve engaged them and have been able to lower the numbers down pretty good. I’d like to squeeze even harder at times. Our commitment at Albritton Insurance is just as strong as it has been. We understand how rural … counties are stressed, especially with staff when it comes to employee benefits. We strive to take the usual commission that an agent brings in … and we hire someone local and they pay attention to those benefits every single day.”

He also characterized United as a strong carrier and said his company has other relationships with that provider. “We know their ability to customize and to build plans based on the data of that community. We feel very strongly that they’re good partners as well.”

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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