Advisory committee recommends continuing with current insurance provider

The Lafayette Parish school system’s employee insurance advisory committee recommended Thursday that the School Board scrap a new search for an administrator for its health insurance program this year and instead strengthen its existing administrative plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana.

The recommendation heads to the School Board for consideration at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Confusion and complaints shrouded the selection process last year when the board opted to forgo the usual practice of the committee vetting proposals and chose to hire its own consultant to oversee every step of the process, including the final recommendation to the board.

In June, it hired Tikia Consulting Group, whose recommendation of a new administrator, Key Benefits Administrators, was rejected, then accepted and then essentially rejected again by the School Board when it decided in late October to abandon the consultant’s process and do it all over again in 2014. But, this time, with the committee’s input.

While Rina Tikia of Tikia Consulting has defended the process and the recommendation of Key Benefits, other applicants, including representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana and employees, both current and retired, have disputed the fairness of the process.

Blue Cross has been the district’s third-party administrator for the past 17 years. The board had opted to extend its contract with Blue Cross through 2014 as it restarts the selection process.

The employee insurance advisory committee includes 10 members representative of retirees, teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food service employees, clerical staff, maintenance staff and central office staff.

New committee chairman Butch Mouton, a retired teacher, suggested that the committee representation be proportionate to the number of employees within each employee group. He said the committee should include more teachers because they’re representative of the largest number of employees in the system.

Mouton said in the last selection process, teachers felt left out of the discussion. He stressed the need for improved communication to keep all employees up-to-date on recommendations and the use of surveys to capture input from employees.

“They’re looking at this new setup. I think they’re looking for transparency,” Mouton said. “They’re not going to be left in the dark. This is our insurance — that’s the word to use. It’s not Blue Cross’ insurance. It’s not Aetna. It’s our insurance.”

The committee decided to wait on a decision about the numbers of representatives to allow time for official employee counts from the central office.

Only six of the 10 members attended Thursday, and the committee also discussed removing those representatives who miss more than two meetings.

Board members Mark Allen Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Mark Cockerham are on the board insurance committee. Only Cockerham was present at Thursday’s committee meeting. Board member Shelton Cobb also attended.