Stillwater News Press

November 15, 2013

County may delay health insurance signup

By Chris Day
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Payne County employees might not enroll for health insurance Tuesday and Wednesday as originally planned.

In a special meeting Friday, county commissioners raised concerns about the Payne County Budget Board’s selection of Community Care of Oklahoma to provide health insurance coverage for county employees.

The commissioners were scheduled to ratify and sign the contract at their 9 a.m. Monday meeting at the Payne County Administration Building, 315 W. Sixth Ave.

Concerns about referrals to medical specialists could keep commissioners from signing, Commission chairman Chris Reding said. If it isn’t signed, Reding said he would call a special Budget Board meeting to review the contract, and possibly select another provider. Wednesday is the earliest day the Budget Board could meet to comply with the state’s Open Meetings Act notice requirements.

It likely will push back employee enrollment dates until early December, Reding said.

County Clerk Glenna Craig and County Assessor James Cowan said state statute prevents the County Commission from overriding a Budget Board decision.

“I believe this is something for the Budget Board to look at,” Cowan said. “According to Title 19, Sec. 1403, anything charged to the Budget Board cannot be overriden by the county commissioners. ... This is something that has been with the Budget Board and the Budget Board voted on it.”

The Budget Board should revisit the health insurance plan if there is a problem, he added.

Friday’s meeting, Reding said, was called to gather additional information to help commissioners determine if the contract will be signed.

“If we are not going to sign it, then it goes back to the Budget Board,” he said.

The county is running out of time to get employees enrolled in a health insurance plan, Craig said.

“You are really going to mess our employees around,” she said.

Payne County has hired PremierConsulting Partners of Tulsa to administer the county’s insurance programs. Premier Executive Director Dason Gwartney said the county has time to revisit its health insurance provider and enroll employees by the Jan. 1 deadline.

“If the decision is to change directions, then we will implement that,” Gwartney said. “No worries on the execution of the decision.”

The commissioners want to provide the best health insurance possible for county employees, Reding said. Coverage questions have popped up that require additional discussion.

Payne County employees helped select Community Care of Oklahoma, Craig said.

The employees looked at coverage and cost before deciding Community Care was the best option.

“We did our due diligence as a Budget Board and employers,” Craig said.

Now is the time to have these last-minute concerns considered, Reding said.

“We would rather have buyer’s remorse prior to the contract being signed than after the contract being signed,” Reding said.