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A broken consortium



Published: Sat, June 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another ..."

Not to trivialize the Declaration of Independence, but it appears time for school districts in Mahoning County that want to save as much money as they can on health insurance to alter, abolish or institute a new school employee insurance consortium.

Let those districts that are content with the status quo continue on the road they've chosen, and let those districts that would dare to save more (and, coincidentally, listen to the advice given to them by the consultant the consortium hired) go their way.

Last Tuesday, the Mahoning County School Employee Consortium turned down a motion to hire Aetna as its health care administrator, rejecting the recommendation of CBIZ, a Columbus consultant hired to compare the proposals from Professional Risk Management of Boardman, Aetna and Medical Mutual. PRM is the current administrator.

CBIZ projected consortium-wide savings of about $1.7 million next year with Aetna. The two largest districts in the consortium, Austintown and Boardman, would have saved more than $300,000 each.

The motion to go with Aetna was defeated, eight school districts to six.

Painful recogniton

This newspaper has long advocated cooperative agreements between government entities in an effort to save money (note the editorial above), and so it pains us to suggest that this consortium has failed. But clearly, when the two school districts (Austintown and Boardman) that represent nearly $4 of every $10 that goes through the consortium are told that they will not be given the opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on health care costs, the partnership is broken.

Perhaps the savings in dollars from making a change are small enough for some school districts that their leaders do not want to be bothered with the hassle that comes with changing insurance carriers. If so, this consortium is no longer viable.

Let those districts that are content with a consortium seeking modest savings continue to work together. Let those that choose to be more aggressive in their pursuit of reining in health care costs go on their own or form a new consortium.

Clearly, no district does itself proud to hold another district -- be it larger or smaller -- hostage in an unhappy alliance.

Each district should be able to do what is dictated by its board's conscience and by the board's sense of what taxpayers expect of it.




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