PITTSFIELD – Although Pike County agreed to renew its contract with the HOPE Trust health care plan for insurance coverage on Monday, some members of the county council are concerned that additional expenses in 2022 could rise six digits.
Under the HOPE Trust plan, the county contributes monthly to a common self-insurance risk pool for all members. The trust then purchases reinsurance coverage on behalf of all members and pays claims and other expenses directly.
Pike County Chairman Jim Sheppard said quotes from four insurance agents had been received, but due to a limited time to provide notice of cancellation, the board decided at a meeting to renew her contract with the HOPE Trust.
Under its current contract, the county must provide 120 days’ notice that it would cancel its agreement with the HOPE Trust. The county would have to issue the notice by Thursday if it wanted to cancel its contract for 2022.
“Next year we just have to start earlier on these things and do it in a more organized way,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard added that any changes to the health insurance plan will be up to the insurance committee, which will meet in mid-September.
Pike County Board Member Derek Ross said while there are alternative plans available under the HOPE Trust next year, renewal rates could increase to as high as $200,000. for calendar year 2022 if county customers remained on their existing plans.
Ross also said the potential savings from alternative insurance plans were not discussed before the full board.
“There was no research to get a final number to see if we could save money,” Ross said.
The topic of seeking health insurance deals as a potential cost-cutting measure has been debated by the county council for over a year.
At a county board meeting in July 2020, Ross proposed that the county put its health insurance out to tender and meet before renewing the HOPE Trust plan. However, the motion did not receive a second.
Ross had previously argued against the county’s practice of covering reinsurance premiums from its liability fund instead of its general fund and wanted to make sure its insurance expenses were within the law.
An informal legal opinion from the Council of United Counties of Illinois in 2017 stated that reinsurance is not an eligible tort fund expense under state law. However, Sheppard said that with a general fund reserve of less than $500,000, it is a financial necessity to cover reinsurance premiums from the tort fund.
Ross said that by not comparing insurance, it was impossible to know if the county was getting the best coverage at the most affordable price. He eventually made a request to discuss health insurance deals the following month, but a motion to seek deals was defeated 4-2.