As the county considers shopping for the possibility of a new insurance carrier, a Champaign firm claims a new plan would provide six figure savings.

But the current carrier is not so sure, and said so at a county board health insurance committee meeting Nov. 12.

In recent weeks, the county-owned nursing home and Piatt County Transportation (PIATTRAN) have been discussing the possibility of ditching the current HealthLink self-insured plan and going to a Health Alliance or Blue Cross/Blue Shield one. Representatives of Insure Champaign say their numbers show a new plan would provide more in-network providers at a savings of about $150 per month, per employee.

For the nursing home, that’s an $80,000 savings annually.

But Dan Reynolds of Dansig Insurance Risk Advisors, the Decatur-based company that helps the county manage its self-insured plans, questioned whether that kind of savings could be achieved for a facility that racked up about $793,000 in claims for the 12-month period that ended Aug. 31.

I can’t imagine anybody wanting to peel that off and take that risk, personally,” said Reynolds, who also requested access to the new quote to review policy language details.

Nick Hiltbrand of Insure Champaign stood by the company’s cost-savings claim, countering that the numbers for the nursing home include a “final, underwritten offer from Health Alliance.”

He added the main idea of a new plan would be to get the county’s just-under $1,000 per month per employee premiums reduced, saying it was an “alarming” cost that his firm had rarely seen.

The cost would come down through a switch from a PPO to a POS plan. The latter means employees would need referrals from primary care physicians to see specialists, something not needed on the PPO.

But it would also allow subscribers access to at least five times more in-network providers, including those at Kirby Medical Center and Carle Foundation Hospital, who are currently out-of-network.

The addition of a co-pay could also help the county’s cost.

Hiltbrand asked for permission to expand the quote for all county employees, of which 107 currently take health insurance.

We’ve looked at PIATTRAN and we’ve looked at the nursing home and we’ve found savings with both. We think that, by having the opportunity to look at the county as a whole, we might have an opportunity to save more money in addition to just peeling these two off,” he said.

He noted PIATTRAN could be placed on Affordable Care Act plans since it employs fewer than 50 people, which will save them additional dollars.

Reynolds warned that changing the plan to exclude nursing home employees would trigger a new round of underwriting, something the county has avoided by using the same company to manage its plan.

He also said the county plan has kept premium increases at 6 percent or less each year, which is difficult to do in the current health insurance climate.

This is a one, two-year gain, I think it’s putting everyone in jeopardy,” said Reynolds, adding that Dansig could provide additional options – PPO and POS – as well as more high-deductible plans to bring down the current plan’s cost.

County Engineer Eric Seibring, who led a county committee that resulted in the switch to self-insurance five years ago, encouraged the county board to “do it as a whole” if there is a change in plans. He noted that one of the key goals in 2014 was to treat employees the same. At that time, departments were on several different plans with different costs and benefits.

The Piatt County Mental Health Center is on its own plan, which is coordinated by Insure Champaign. Numbers at other county meetings noted their premiums are about $200 to $300 less per employee than the plan that covers other county employees.

Mental Health Center Chief Financial Officer Darlene Baker encouraged the county to also consider a flexible spending option, which would be fully funded by voluntary employee contributions. Since flexible spending contributions are pre-tax, they can also reduce income tax withholding for the county.