INSURANCE Rejection of Aetna divides consortium

One superintendent says the stated savings was just a projection, not a guarantee.
CANFIELD -- After a 14-member Mahoning County schools consortium rejected one health insurance provider that supporters say would have saved money, the two largest districts are talking about getting out.
"The taxpayers got shafted today," said Michael Creatore, an Austintown school board member. "In Columbus, they have Coingate," he said. "In Mahoning County, we have insurance gate."
James Massey, a representative of Boardman, wanted the consortium to vote to allow Austintown and Boardman until Jan.1 to decide whether to stay with the consortium or go out on their own.
"We got into the consortium to save money," he said.
That motion was tabled until the next meeting, likely in a few weeks.
Motioned denied
The Mahoning County School Employee Consortium met Tuesday at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center and turned down a motion to hire Aetna as its health care administrator.
That motion followed a recommendation by the consortium's executive committee. The consortium hired CBIZ, a Columbus consultant, to study the proposals from Professional Risk Management of Boardman, Aetna and Medical Mutual. PRM is the current administrator.
The consultant recommended Aetna and projected a consortium-wide savings of about $1.7 million next year. Austintown's projected savings was $339,000 next year and Boardman's was $319,000 with Aetna, according to the consultant.
The motion to go with Aetna was supported by six districts with eight opposed. The consortium includes Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, Mahoning County Educational Service Center and 12 school districts. The only districts in the county not included are Youngstown City and Sebring.
Dante Zambrini, Canfield superintendent, was among those opposed to going with Aetna.
"Several superintendents sought input from medical professionals within our communities and cautions were given about certain vendors," he said.
Zambrini also said that while the projected savings of Aetna over PRM was based on a 6.1 percent increase from PRM next year, the increase the last few years has been 5 percent or lower. Canfield's projected savings next year with Aetna was $135,000, according to the consultant.
"We are listening to our constituents in the medical and business professions," he said. "We are receiving feedback."
Guaranteed savings
Many districts within the consortium have initiated their own savings through management and labor working together and implementing preferred provider agreements and hospitalization co-payments. Zambrini also pointed out that some physicians aren't covered in Aetna's network so the employee would have to foot the bill for the difference.
"Of course I want to save money, but I cannot vote on something that is projections, predictions and relative," Zambrini said. "I'm looking for guaranteed savings."
But Creatore said that PRM hasn't made any guarantees about savings either. Of the claims paid by PRM last year, Aetna would have paid for 95 percent of them, he said.
"Austintown and Boardman need to immediately sit down and talk about withdrawing from the consortium," Creatore said.
The two districts, with between 500 and 600 employees each, are the consortium's two largest members.

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