School Board to try again to find administrator for insurance program

After two attempts, the School Board will try again Wednesday to select an administrator for its self-funded employee health insurance program.

At its Sept. 19 meeting, the board rejected a proposal by Key Benefits Administrator to be the district’s new administrator, but at an Oct. 2 meeting, the board voted 5-4 to hire the company.

However, the Oct. 2 vote has been deemed improper because the issue was on the agenda as an introduction item and was moved to the action agenda with only five votes — not the required six needed to advance an issue for a formal vote, Superintendent Pat Cooper said.

The board will take steps Wednesday to rescind its action and could reconsider its choice of an administrator, Cooper said.

Three items related to the issue are on Wednesday’s agenda: One to rescind the board’s Oct. 2 action; another to choose a health plan administrator; and a third to select Key Benefits Administrators as its health plan administrator, and Employee Health Insurance Management as its pharmacy benefits management company.

The three items are listed separately under the advisement of the board’s attorney, Roger Hamilton, Cooper said.

He said the three choices are on the agenda to “correct the fact that they didn’t follow procedure.”

Wednesday’s agenda may be the end of a complex process that has been heavily contested by retirees such as Pat Sonnier, a retired teacher.

“The main concern is the way the process was done from the start. There are a lot of flaws in the process,” Sonnier said.

Typically, district staff manages the issuance and review of requests for proposals. The board voted last year to hire its own consultant to review proposals for third-party administrators of its self-funded insurance plan.

In June, it selected Tikia Consulting Group, of Metairie, and a request for proposals was issued in July with notices of the job sent to 27 vendors.

Nearly half of them submitted proposals, but according to consultant Rina Tikia, Key Benefits stood out for the $8 million in savings it estimated due to its “enhanced care management and a more competitive pharmacy program.”

Employee benefits will remain the same with enhanced benefits through the new pharmacy program, Tikia said in an email. The district contracts with CVS Caremark for those services.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana has been the district’s third-party administrator for the past 17 years, but based on advice from another board attorney, its proposal was excluded because it failed to include requested information.

However, during the board’s Oct. 2 meeting, a Blue Cross representative told the board the information was provided.

The conflicting reports of information have clouded the process, Sonnier said.

“There are still too many questions. What we would like to see the board do is stay with Blue Cross for another year and hire a national company to do an evaluation,” she said.

At its Oct. 2 meeting, Hamilton advised the board to press the restart button and reissue a request for proposals — but a motion to do just that only won the support of four board members: Greg Awbrey, Mark Allen Babineaux, Shelton Cobb and Tommy Angelle.

The same four board members opposed the selection of Key Benefits Administrators.

Board members Mark Cockerham, Kermit Bouillion, Hunter Beasley, Rae Trahan and Tehmi Chassion voted in support of Key Benefits.

The district’s insurance advisory committee requested the board hire auditors to review financial claims made by Key Benefits and Blue Cross Blue Shield, but the board hasn’t acted on the request.