United Health Care to succeed The Oath

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 24, 2002


LULING – The St. Charles Parish School Board selected United Health Care in a split vote to succeed The Oath as its employee health insurance carrier.

The Oath’s bankruptcy was announced April 10, and an employee insurance committee reviewed the issue at a meeting the following day, with two meetings held April 16, with the retiree group and the employee benefits committee. Insurance consultant Jesse Babin met with the full board in committee this week to discuss bids submitted by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Coventry Health, United Health Care and Ochsner.

Comptroller Jim Melohn said UHC came in with a late bid, which attracted the board’s vote. The annual premium for the district for UHC will be $8,165,299.92, which although not the cheapest, would nonetheless be the quickest to implement.

Doctors enrolled with The Oath are also with UHC, making for a smoother assumption of business.

“Retirees are more concerned with which doctors are in the network,” Melohn said.

An employee survey taken prior to UHC’s new lower bid showed overwhelming support for an Ochsner/Coventry sharing of the business, giving employees their choice. In the survey, 593 supported Ochsner/Coventry, 243 for UHC and 117 for Blue Cross.

Blue Cross or UHC would have been “a total takeover” of the insurance program offered to the school district’s 1,500 eligible employees and 500 retirees, while Coventry and Ochsner would work together, as alternate plans available at the same time.

During the recent meeting, though, board members Mary Bergeron and Steve Crovetto supported the Ochsner/Coventry plan, while the remaining five board members voted for United Health Care.

During the special meeting, representatives of each plan were granted three minutes to make a pitch to the board.

Joanie James of Ochsner pointed out the financial stability of their plan and easy access to specialists. John Del Brocco of Coventry pointed out its efforts to serve the district with the lowest price. Amy Kehoe of UHC pointed out that United Health Care is the largest company of its type in the nation and indicated its determination to serve the district with the best price.

Fred Martinez, administrator for St. Charles Parish Hospital, was asked his opinion of the bidders, and he responded there was one bidder the hospital ever had a complaint about. It was settled amicably, he said, without litigation and declined to name which one it was.

He also indicated the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office was also partially covered by The Oath, but a spokesman for the sheriff’s office had no comment to make on the matter.

Several employee insurance committee members also addressed the board on their conclusions. Christine Spencer, a Lakewood Elementary School teacher, said that school’s staff members were concerned with cost between the plans and added, “We have a very bad taste on United.”

Rose Pinado, a St. Rose Primary School teacher, said, “We really don’t want to go through this again.”

Bergeron said she supported the Ochsner/Coventry plan, which would give them a choice of carriers.

Despite the objections, the board voted 5-2 in support of United Health Care.

“I’m not happy about the way this was pushed on us,” commented Merlin Jackson of Destrehan High School.