If you're looking for expert advice on controlling health insurance premiums, it makes sense that you would consult an expert. But that's not what Porter County officials did.
Instead, they went to the county employees, who of course don't see why premiums should increase or benefits decrease.
The employees suggested things like seeking competitive bids from private companies and eliminating the county's self-insurance plan.
Mike Anton, who serves as the county health plan's servicing agent, said quotes already are gathered every year. He recommended the county not do away with its self-insurance plan, saying private companies typically have a markup of 10 percent to 15 percent.
Anton Insurance earns about $20,000 a year for servicing the county's plan, or $2.75 per employee per month. As an independent insurance agency, Anton examines a variety of options to make a recommendation to its client.
Anton met with employees as part of the county's current decision-making process, which was challenged by Porter County Chief Public Defender Ken Elwood because of the profit Anton makes off the county.
Health insurance has become highly complex, to the point where there are specialists who do nothing but offer advice to employers on which options are best suited to their workforce and the employer's needs. The county would be well served to hire one of these outside experts, who won't make a commission on any plan the county chooses, to offer advice this year.
This is no different from an individual hiring a financial planner who works for a fee, rather than on commission.
Local governments have a variety of options, from joining the state government insurance plan to self-insurance to a completely private plan. Valparaiso recently opted for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns plan. Each plan has a variety of possible options for employees to choose from, too. All of these options must be explored.
Porter County officials are right to work toward controlling insurance costs, but the best approach is to hire an expert who can study this highly complex situation and offer advice on what works well elsewhere.
Consulting employees is thoughtful but not the right direction, at least not yet. Get an outside expert's recommendations first.