St. John opts to become self-insured

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 19, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / April 19, 1999

LAPLACE – St. John Parish has decided to become self-insured.Health insurance ideas see-sawed for more than two hours Thursday night, but in the end the St. John the Baptist Parish Council narrowly approved aself-insured plan for parish employees. The plan was offered by TatjeInsurance and Financial Products of LaPlace.

In the end, Parish Council members who supported Tatje Insurance in the final vote were Duaine Duffy, Kevin Duhon, Nickie Monica, Joel McTopy and Steve Thornton.

“Hard work has finally prevailed,” Tatje commented afterward.

Dave Millet Jr., whose United HealthCare plan lost in the council votes,commented afterward, “This is not about me; I’m old news. This ought tobe about the people and the plans. There’s too much politics in here.”Natalie Tatje of Tatje Insurance assured the Parish Council her Consolidated Health Care plan would “mirror,” or match the present health-care package, with added tweaks to sweeten the plan.

The Parish Council decided to seek proposals for a new insurance plan after United HealthCare informed them to expect a 13 percent increase in rates, as claims by the parish were on the increase. St. John the BaptistParish is one of the few Louisiana parish governments to wholly pay insurance premiums for its employees.

Several plans were offered but at the Parish Council’s insurance committee, it came down to two.

“Put politics aside,” Raydell Morris of the Utilities Department urged.

“It’s hard for us to understand and honestly compare. This issue isdifficult to figure out.””Nobody explained it to us,” added Roads and Bridges employee George Tassin. “There’s a lot of confusion in here.”The self-insurance plan approved is one where the body pays monthly premiums into a claims fund to cover claims costs. Where potentialsavings come in, Tatje explained, is if claims do not exceed the claims fund. The savings could then be used to enhance other employee benefits,such as salaries.

“I can mirror your plan to a ‘T’, except for prescriptions and vision,” Tatje told the Parish Council.

The parish’s current plan pays $8 for generic drugs, an $18 copay for name-brand drugs and $28 copay for non-preferred brands. Tatje’s planfeatures an $8 copay for generics and $20 copay for name brands. Thevision benefit changes from one pair of glasses per year and a $15 copay, to Tatje’s plan to pay 50 percent of claims up to $200 per year per employee.

Also, Tatje’s plan improves dental coverage, where the plan would pay $1,500 per employee per calendar year, up from $1,000.

Tatje also successfully argued that doctors will be more efficiently paid by the insurance carrier, since Universal Health Network, which is used by United HealthCare to set the pricing with doctors, is owned by Universal Health Services, which also owns River Parishes Hospital.

A self-insured plan involves risk, which affected the votes of some council members.

“Of any kind of fiscal decision I’ve had to make in three and a half years, this is the tightest,” Councilman Steve Thornton commented. “There’s agreat potential one way or another.”Councilman Joel McTopy urged, “The parish will win, one way or the other.”Insurance committee member Erick St. Amant argued he was advised to”stay away” from self-insurance plans.

Councilman Kevin Duhon moved to recommend Tatje’s plan to the full council, seconded by McTopy. Councilman Perry Bailey made a substitutemotion for Millet’s plan, seconded by Ranney Wilson.

Bailey’s motion passed 6-5 in the insurance committee, with Erick St.

Amant, Pat McTopy, “Rock” Perrilloux, Bailey, Wolfe, Wilson and Duffy voting in favor, and Thornton, Monica, McTopy and Duhon voting no.

However, in the full council (and without St. Amant and Pat McTopy) theBailey recommendation failed.

At that point, Joel McTopy moved to accept Tatje’s plan, and it failed. Asecond vote minutes later landed the contract for Tatje.

Tatje has been in business 14 years in LaPlace and is considered a thorny rival to Dave Millet Insurance, now in its second generation. The twocompanies jointly handle insurance for the St. John Sheriff’s Office.In the past three years, Millet’s company handled the parish’s health and life plans, while Tatje only handled the parish’s dental plan.

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