LISBON -Columbiana County commissioners are switching health insurance brokers in their ongoing search for a cost-efficient plan that provides the same or comparable employee coverage for the best possible savings.
Commissioners voted at this week's meeting to hire The Fedeli Group of Independence near Cleveland to replace the Morris Financial Group of Salem, which had served as the county's insurance broker for the past nine years.
Fedeli will be paid the same as Morris - $25,000 per year - and 15 percent of any savings. Commissioner Jim Hoppel said the decision to switch was recommended by the county's insurance committee, which consists of department heads and employees. Four companies were interviewed, including Morris.
"They felt they just wanted to change and see what was possible with the new group," Hoppel said.
Fedeli will stick with the county's insurance carrier - Anthem - when shopping around for new coverage.
The county's self-funded insurance plan has become increasingly more expensive in recent years, due mostly to a jump in claims. The plan cost $5.78 million to operate last year, up from $5 million in 2010.
The problem became so acute that commissioners were forced to take money out of the county budget several times a year to shore up the insurance fund. Commissioners provided an additional $512,977 to the insurance fund in 2010 and $658,157 last year.
The situation has improved significantly this year, with commissioners only providing $94,473 in additional funding for the insurance fund through September. The average monthly cost has dropped from $482,072 last year to $345,418 in 2012 - a decline of 29 percent.
A portion of that can be attributed to fewer claims, but commissioners believe steps taken to save money have begun to pay off. "It's gotten better with the changes we've made ... but we still need to improve as much as we can," Hoppel said.
Some of the changes included increasing the share employees pay of their monthly premiums, from 9 percent to 10 percent; raising co-payments; and providing workers with three plans to chose from.
The most controversial cost-cutting move was one prohibiting any new hire from adding dependents to their coverage without paying the difference between the cost of single coverage and full-cost of a higher monthly premium for a family plan.
The plans covers about 460 employees, about half of whom work for county general fund offices under the control of commissioners. The remainder are county agencies that operate independently of commissioners, such as the engineer's office and health department.
Because of the changes, some of the non-general fund offices have opted out of the county's insurance plan in favor of purchasing coverage on their own.