Conference board chooses new health insurance carrier



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Conference board chooses new health insurance carrier

Oct. 11, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011   
tparham@flumc.org     Orlando {0383}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

ORLANDO — After nearly a year of planning and reviewing proposals the Florida Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits has chosen United Health Care (UHC) as the health insurance carrier for the conference.

As part of its regular responsibilities to review the conference's health insurance plan and ensure the best options possible are being provided, the conference board began the process of obtaining proposals from carriers last January. At the "One Body One Spirit" 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event in June delegates voted to allow the board to choose the best plan possible, based on benefits and price.

Of the six proposals the board received, the choice was narrowed down to three finalists. Each made a presentation to the board last May, and after further negotiations with the providers the board made a final review of the proposals in late June. The board chose UHC as the best option for the estimated 1,100 clergy and lay employees participating in the conference health insurance program.

Barbara Pearce, vice chairwoman of the Florida Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
"It was a very difficult decision," said Barbara Pearce, vice chairwoman of the board. "We tried to look at it from every way possible."

Pearce said price was not the sole factor. Board members considered how the plans would function and serve participants. They compared the benefits being offered to those provided under the current plan to ensure participants would get the same benefits or better. They also looked for any benefits the companies could bring to add value to the package and evaluated the ease with which the conference could work with each company from an administrative perspective.

"We evaluated all three (carriers) and selected United Health Care because it came out on top on every one of those criteria, and they were the most cost effective," Pearce said. "It was a win-win situation."

One of the finalists was the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church (GBOPHB), which has administered the Florida Conference's health insurance program through its Healthflex department for nearly 11 years. In that role GBOPHB has worked with the conference's health insurance providers on the conference's behalf. With the change in carriers the conference will work directly with UHC and assume the role of administrator.

Pearce said GBOPHB provides a valuable service for smaller and mid-sized conferences that aren't able to obtain insurance on their own. Larger conferences, like the Florida Conference, typically have more options available. Pearce said the conference board wanted to explore those options in order to provide the best possible benefits.

Pearce said there are no major differences between the current plans and the new one under UHC. "We've tried to match benefits as closely as possible," she said. "Everything we asked for and needed they provided. That spoke volumes to me."

At the 2004 annual conference event delegates approved the recommendation that all clergy contribute to the total cost of their health insurance. Delegates decided that churches served by itinerating clergy who are eligible to participate in the insurance program should pay a blended rated that would decrease by a certain percentage over a period of years, with the cost to clergy increasing an equal percent.

In 2005 the blended rate was $750 per month, with churches paying 84 percent and clergy paying 16 percent. The total for 2006 will be $700, with a split of 83 percent for churches and 17 percent for clergy. Although the percentages have changed for 2006, the blended rated has decreased for the second year in a row so clergy will pay the same amount - $60 per month if there are no dependents and $155 per month if the clergyperson has one or more dependents.

For participants, price isn't the only concern. Switching to a new insurance carrier can also mean finding new doctors, but Pearce does not anticipate that will be a significant problem. She said nearly 87 percent of the doctors under the old plan are also in the UHC network, adding, "That's a very high match."

Pearce encourages participants to contact their doctors now to find out if they are included in the UHC network of doctors and if not to ask them to consider contracting with UHC. Because the new plan is not effective until Jan. 1, doctors have just under three months to make those arrangements is they so choose.

"Participants need to be making inquiries now so there are no interruptions (in doctor care) and no surprises," Pearce said.

Pearce said she was also impressed by what she described as UHC "taking advantage of the latest technology." She said UHC's Web site is very user friendly — participants don't have to know a lot about specific benefits to find the information pertinent to them. UHC also provides helpful information on health-related issues, such as treatments and the latest on specific diseases.

Pearce encourages participants to attend one of the workshops scheduled throughout the conference Oct. 10-Nov. 14 to learn more about the plan. She says it's especially important for retired clergy and their spouses to attend so they can be better informed about their options, particularly Medicare Part D, which is a change in pharmacy benefits under Medicare legislated by Congress and effective in January. Pearce said the pharmaceutical benefit under the conference plan "is a far richer benefit," and the board does not believe it would be beneficial to retirees enrolled in the conference health insurance plan to enroll in Medicare Part D. More information about the board's recommendation against enrollment in that option is available on the conference Web site at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?PKValue=94.

Enrollment in the new plan must be done electronically and between Oct. 31 and Nov. 22. Information packets for current participants were mailed in early October. New participants who are eligible to enroll must have their employer contact Jenny DiLorenzo at jdilorenzo@flumc.org or 800-282-8011, extension 135, no later than Nov. 2.

Detailed information about the health insurance options and a schedule of the workshops taking place are located on the Florida Conference Web site at http://www.flumc2.org/page.asp?pkvalue=94

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This article relates to Conference Health Benefits.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.




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