For the second consecutive month, health insurance for Montgomery County employees was a much debated topic at the county board meeting Tuesday morning.
At the meeting, Personnel Committee Chairman Mary Bathurst informed the board that the committee had received an amended offer from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the county's current health insurance provider. Blue Cross Blue Shield had originally presented an offer prior to the board voting to open up bids from the market at the September meeting. The current premium to the county from the company is $1,253,427. After opening up bids, Blue Cross Blue Shield improved their offer to $1,219,380.
Bathurst said that while the change wasn't earth-shattering, it was still an improvement. She then made the motion to have the board approve the new offer so that county employees could be covered in time for the renewal date of December 1. Her reasoning behind the motion was inspired by the impression she received from county employeese after informing them of the process of opening up the market prior to Blue Cross submitting an amended offer.
"In talking to the employees," Bathurst said, "as an individual myself, I was coming to the conclusion that certainty of the numbers was better than not knowing anything and having two weeks to deal with it."
An emotional Finance Committee Chairman Megan Beeler, who had been working with the personnel committee as a joint effort to obtain the best plan, expressed her opposition to the motion, stating that she felt it was the duty of the board to seek out every option.
"The reason for going out for bids was the board's obligation to do our due diligence and to look under every stone for the best break we could get for the county - our obligation to the taxpayer but also our obligation to the county employees. I talked to those employees in the same meetings and, yes, they are concerned with the dates and the uncertainty; but those same employees are also facing the fact that they might not have a paycheck to take home with the rate changes they are facing in these policies. How can we say that we have done everything we could to bring them the best rate possible? How can we tell the taxpayers that we did everything we could - that we looked everywhere we could? We have an obligation. We are elected officials. We have a job to do."
The board deliberated for an hour, causing many of the members to express their feelings, before finally taking a vote. The motion ultimately passed, narrowly, by an 11 to 9 margin.