Engineer Finds Another Company For Insurance Change

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An alternate company has been found to handle medical claim reimbursements for Athens County Engineer's Department employees, and Engineer Jeff Maiden said he is hoping to get a contract with the company approved Thursday.

Maiden has been working to switch his unionized employees from a Medical Mutual insurance plan to coverage by the County Employee Benefits Consortium of Ohio (CEBCO), in order to save money on premiums.

However, there was an issue because the two plans are not equal, and the workers' labor contract says benefits cannot be reduced during the life of the contract. Maiden thought he had the issue resolved by having a third-party administrator, Benefit Assistance Corp., reimburse employees for out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the change in coverage. That hit a snag last week when it was discovered the company's contract included an indemnification clause that officials say is not allowable in a county contract, and the company would not remove the clause.

Maiden said that another company has been found, Patrick Consulting Group, that is willing to have a contract without an indemnification clause.

Maiden said he met with the union members Tuesday, and they accepted the change in companies.

Sandy Shonborn, regional director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also told The Messenger than the alternate company is acceptable to the union.

According to Maiden, the union was concerned because another county had experienced delays in getting reimbursements from Patrick Consulting, but Maiden said the engineer's department will be using a streamlined process, including making funds available to Patrick Consulting up front for the reimbursements.

Maiden said he hopes to have the contract reviewed by Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn on Wednesday, so it can be taken to the county commissioners on Thursday for approval.

Employees will be on the CEBCO plan effective Feb. 1.

Maiden has estimated that the change in insurance plans would save the county between $230,000 and $240,000 on an annual basis. However, the situation with the insurance could change later this year because the current labor contract expires in September, and negotiations are expected to get under way in a few months.