Holdren questions whether BCBS is “… taking advantage of the county”

Published 5:47 pm Monday, April 4, 2022

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
The Carter County Financial Management wants the county’s insurance broker to shop carriers for a better rate.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been the carrier for the county for the past 14 years, but Commission Chairwoman Ginger Holdren questioned if the company is “taking advantage of the county” because of the longevity of the relationship.
“It’s kind of like my cable and internet plan,” said Holdren. “They offer you a great price to start with, and within a year that price goes up and you will never be able to get a better deal again.”
Carter County is represented by The Sequoyah Insurance Group which serves as the broker for the county.
“If you want to bid it out we can,”  Sequoyah representative Tim Helton said. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield has been good for the county.”
Helton said there are many questions going forward, especially what the impact of COVID-19 will be. He also said the numbers of employees getting preventive exams have dropped and that the numbers need to go up drastically to help the county with any insurance carrier they choose. Only 97 of the county’s 308 employees have taken advantage of the preventative exams this fiscal year, he said.
Helton said preventive health exams are crucial, adding that after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, his doctor sent him to a cardiologist for a checkup. After further testing, he learned he may have to have stents placed in his heart. “I wouldn’t have known that without my doctor sending me to get my heart checked,” Helton said.
Financial Management chairman Brad Johnson said that although a plan last year that gave employees a day off if they went to get their preventative health exam worked well, there may need to be further plans to encourage employees to follow through on their exams. “If employees don’t take care of themselves, we are going to see the cost go up,” Johnson said.
The committee asked the broker to put out bids for a three-year plan, in hopes that it may result in lower costs. Those bids will be reviewed on May 2, with a recommendation sent to the full commission on May 16.
In another agenda item, Carter County Chief Deputy James Parrish was present on behalf of the sheriff’s department’s request to purchase vehicles using $315,000 in reserve funds from housing federal and state inmates.
“We haven’t been able to buy since 2019 and purchasing them now will complete the life cycles of the vehicles on the lot,” Parrish said. “If we don’t purchase them now, it will probably be August of next year before any more vehicles would be available due to them being behind on production.”
Parrish added that the intent going forward would be to use the money toward communications. The fund generates anywhere from $115,000 to $120,000 a month.
Finance Director Carolyn Watson was unsure if the funds could be used for vehicle purchases, adding that the reserve fund currently has $900,000 available.
Budget chairman Austin Jaynes requested for the item to be deferred to the budget committee to see if something could be worked out where the car purchase could be possibly funded by another avenue and use the $900,000 towards the projected $3.7 million communication project that the county is pursuing.
The committee deferred the item to the budget committee which is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 11.

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