A change in health insurance carriers could provide the Piatt County Nursing Home with significant savings, and if expanded countywide may end up saving nearly $400,000 per year in premiums alone.

And, according to agents for Insure Champaign who spoke to the nursing home committee on Oct. 24, it would end up being a better plan when compared to the Health Link, self-insured plan currently taken by 107 employees.

Insure Champaign spokesman Nick Hiltbrand said Health Link has only 39 in-network providers within 15 miles of the nursing home, compared to 217 with Blue Cross/Blue Shield and 60 for Health Alliance. Expanding that to 30 miles shows a list of 313 for Health Link, 1,716 for Blue Cross/Blue Shield and 1,879 for Health Alliance.

We had Blue Cross/Blue Shield in our office, and we had mentioned what we were doing and were excited about the opportunity,” said Hiltbrand. “They said they had not quoted since 2013 on the Piatt County plan, which we thought was quite alarming.”

He said the county currently pays more than $1,000 per month per employee for its health plan. Insure Champaign crafted a plan for the Piatt County Mental Health Center that is about $300 less per month, and saves further by providing more in-network providers, reducing patient co-pay costs.

Hiltbrand added that the nursing home plan, or all of Piatt County government employees, could also be bid out to other carriers that include United Health Care, Humana and Aetna.

We want to show you more in-network providers, we want to show you costs savings, and we want to show you better benefit plans. That’s what it comes down to,” he added.

The idea of expanding the savings to all county employees was broached by committee member Dale Lattz.

Just when the county would be able to switch carriers is unknown, since the new year for the current plan began in September. There may be a chance to change earlier than September of 2020 with proper notice, but it may incur penalties.

If the $300 per month savings for nursing home employees was achieved, it would save the nursing home about $150,000 annually.

If expanded to all county employees, the savings would depend on the insurance risk from the employees who take part. Hiltbrand added that a hybrid plan could be implemented in some cases.

The more people on the plan, the more the risk is diversified,” said Hiltbrand. “However, if there is a group that has some more serious health conditions that has a lower number of employees, it might be a smarter idea to put them on an Affordable Care Act plan as opposed to putting them on county health insurance.”

Conversely, pulling nursing home employees from the current county plan – 44 of the 107 are nursing home employees – could change the Health Link premiums as well.

Nursing Home Human Resources Director Jacqui Dalton felt a health plan change would be a positive recruiting tool for the facility.

Unfortunately, I just lost out on a really good nurse, because our health insurance would not work for her. I mean, she was excited about everything else and ready to come, but when we went through the health insurance, she couldn’t accept it,” said Dalton.

Insure Champaign officials said they would obtain more details in order to work on quotes for the nursing home, and the county as a whole if instructed.

If it could be implemented in the next few months and realize the estimated savings, a new health plan could erase a good portion of the $387,000 deficit that is in the tentative county budget for 2019-20. That budget year begins on Dec. 1.