2009-05-23 / Editorials & Letters

'Watchdog' sniffs out savings on health insurance


I would like to publicly thank Bowling Green Township Trustee Jeff Chorpenning for taking on the taboo subject of health insurance. After attending each of the trustee meetings leading up to this year's insurance debate, it was evident that only Chorpenning wanted to talk about changing the health insurance package or even getting quotes from other carriers. There wouldn't have been any competition if Chorpenning had not asked Ohio Insurance Services to participate and submit a bid. So finally in 2009, we actually did have an open competition, with real numbers on the table.

Initially, trusees voted to accept the offer from Ohio Insurance Services, which would have saved the township about $20,000 per year. This was a Health Savings Account (HSA) style plan versus the previous township zero deductible plan, which the township has had for many years now. But sadly this was not to be, since assistant county prosecutor Eric Fox shot it down. He deemed the change amounted to an interim increase/ change that could not be done until the next election cycle. Plus he indicated the board should have had a formal resolution in place to even allow for this sort of a interim change.

I'm not sure I understand that logic, since this plan change was not a benefit increase for the trustees, but rather a major savings for taxpayers. As a result of his opinion, township taxpayers will end up paying about $3,400 versus $1,720 A MONTH just for basic health insurance for three trustees and their families. This does not include the cost of the dental, life, cancer, disability plans either. Yes folks, that's a $40,800 a year expenditure right off the top.

What is confusing to me is that when the last change in insurance carriers was made in March 2007, the county prosecutor's office did not step up and call it an interim increase or change. Nor was anything said in October 2005, when Trustee Don Watkins got his first illegal Medicare reimbursement check. Were these not considered an interim change or in Watkins's case, an actual increase in compensation? So what was different on either one of these changes?

Well on neither occasion was there any open public discussions or deliberations by the board! Somehow the extra Watkins reimbursement checks just started rolling off the presses in October 2005 and get signed by the board each month. When the insurance carrier was changed in 2007, only the fiscal officer knew what was going on. Nothing was brought to the table for the board to review or discuss, let alone actually that formal action on. So these changes were made out of sight, solely by the fiscal officer initiating a reimbursement check and later changing insurance carriers? Or were these issues actually discussed in private which means the Open Meetings Law was violated.

What I know for certain is that Chorpenning was NOT there in 2005 nor did he know about the 2007 insurance carrier change until after it was made. In fact, he did not even get the new policy booklet until many months later, when I started asking for public records from the fiscal officer. There was never a formal resolution made by the board to even allow the new insurance company to work on a new policy for the township. How then was that even possible?

But in 2009, we have at least one trustee that made sure that health insurance issue was brought to the table, discussed publicly and competitive offers were considered. Now, if the current board gets a new resolution in place in the next few months, as assistant county prosecutor Eric Fox indicated, the board can then move to the HSA plan and get some real savings ($20,000 a year) in the next cycle. But this depends on who is representing your best interests after the November election. So think carefully when you decide whom to support for trustee and ask all the candidates some hard questions. Then don't forget to make sure they follow through on any promises they make.

Based on what I have seen, I know where my vote is NOT going to go in November. I hope we have new president of the board. After eight years, it's high time to get someone new into that chair. Anyone up for the challenge? I hope Chorpenning runs again for one more term, but with a new person next to him. Could 2009 finally end my watchdog stint?

Will "Watchdog" Kern Bowling Green Township

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