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School board selects new dental insurance providers

By Staff | Oct 26, 2011

After lengthy, heated discussions at both meetings Tuesday, the Lee County School Board finally approved Humana Dental Insurance as the district’s primary vendor by a 3-2 vote.

Board members Mary Fischer and Jeanne Dozier voted against the proposal.

Fischer said she had a hard time voting on speculation, which is why she was opposed to awarding the bid to Humana.

“I am missing information to make a decision,” she said.

Humana Dental Insurance will provide its services for a two-year period, beginning April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2014.

The request for proposal was released July 15, which attracted nine responses by the Aug. 17 deadline. The request was drafted by the dental request for proposal committee, procurement and Gallagher Benefit Services.

Donna Mutzenard, a member of the insurance task force and president of the Teachers’ Association of Lee County, said she has been on the task force for 18 years.

“I would have to say that the process that we just went through was the most precise and thorough process,” she said, adding that she had more data than ever before to go through. “Through all these discussions it always came down to what was best for the employees of the district.”

The top two vendors that were selected by the committee were Delta Dental and Humana, who then went through an interview process.

According to Insurance and Benefits Director Bonnie McFarland, there are 7,436 employees currently enrolled for dental insurance, which includes 632 signed up for the DHMO coverage and 6,084 for PPO coverage.

She said the Humana coverage best met the needs of the district. The plan for Humana includes three options that the employees of the district can choose from – HMO, low PPO and high PPO.

The current HMO plan for employees only is $20.60, compared to a proposed Humana plan of $13.36. For a family, the current plan is $50.30 compared to a proposed Humana plan of $48.36.

For a low PPO, district employees are currently paying $34.50, which is compared to proposed Humana rates of $27.43. The same plan is $103.70 for a family and a proposed Humana rate of $89.42.

District employees are currently paying $34.50, compared to a proposed Humana rate of $39.41 for the high PPO plan. For a family, the current rates are $103.70, compared to Humana’s $127.44.

McFarland said by offering two PPO plans instead of one, the district is offering employees a choice of a PPO plan that best meets their needs.

She said there is a cost savings for any employee who selects the lower PPO plan from the current PPO plan. The higher PPO plan, McFarland explained, is richer in benefits than what the district currently offers.

One of the reasons Humana was chosen is because of the higher number of American Dental Association codes covered.

Humana has agreed to reach out and connect with current providers that district employees are using and invite them into its network by Jan. 31, before the open enrollment begins.

Under the HMO network of doctors, Humana has 110 general dentists, compared to the Delta Dental plan of 18. The PPO network of doctors on the other hand has 204 for Delta Dental and 206 for Humana.

School Board Chairman Thomas Scott supported the bid because the Humana plan provides more potential services for employees, in addition to costs being less than what the employees are paying for now, with the exception of the enhanced PPO program.

“Humana has a larger number of providers than Delta Dental, for all those reasons, the selection is better for our employees,” he said.

Dozier, who strongly opposed of awarding the bid to Humana, shared her frustration during the meetings Tuesday.

“I have had this high level of frustration,” she said, since receiving her board packet last week. “I don’t think we are doing right by our employees.”

One of her issues dealt with the 5 percent commission employees are paying out of their premium for consultant services of Gallagher Benefit Services.

“The employees are paying that fee,” she said. “It is coming off of the backs of our employees.”

Board member Don Armstrong initially agreed with Dozier that it was wrong to place additional costs on district employees, until he did further research during the 30-minute break between meetings. He said with the three insurance options, the employees will be receiving better insurance.

“The will get more bang for their buck,” Armstrong said, adding that they should be giving district employees the best insurance for their dollar.

Dozier also touched upon the number of district employees who are using the different plans.

“Why would we base our determination on something that a small percentage of our employees actually have,” Dozier said. “That doesn’t make good sense when I know down the line when there is more cost of the pocket.”

Although Dozier put a motion on the table to go back out for another request for proposal, it was quickly shot down when the majority of the board did not feel the same way. Armstrong was the only other board member in favor of the motion during the afternoon meeting.

“I am not in favor of going back out. We did that last year,” board member Jane Kuckel said. “We found out the process was flawed and we corrected those flaws. If the process is accurate, we have an obligation to our employees to move on and provide the very best plan.”

She said the same two dental insurance companies were in the running last year, even when the system was flawed.

Superintendent Dr. Joseph Burke told the board that if they went back out to bid on other companies, it would force back the whole process of informing the employees of their decision.

“If we do not take a vote on this tonight, I think we basically abrogate the work that the committee has done,” he said. “We also push back whatever options we may have in timelines to make the changes that take place in January.”