Monday, September 17, 2007

Knox County Commission Intergovernmental Committee Meeting on Knox County Employee Healthcare Benefits

Knox County is attempting to change the health care administrator for its self insured employee health insurance. Three companies responded. The current administrator/insurer Cariten, Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. The health insurance committee selected or shortlisted Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. It was not a unanimous decision, in fact it wasn't even a majority opinion. It was 4 for Cigna and 4 for Blue Cross Blue Shield. However some quirk in the procurement process has the commission with either accepting Cigna or rejecting Cigna.

So, the debate began and County Clerk Billy Tindell and Sheriff Jimmy J.J. Jones were in the back of the room. They were two of the 4 votes for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Commissioner Tony Norman asked both of them to give their thoughts on the process. Billy Tindell gave a very knowledgeable and insightful discussion about the process, he is a retired Blue Cross Blue Shield employee.

Immediately after Sheriff Jones and Clerk Tindell left the podium. A gentleman approached the podium. He introduced himself as Jerry Burgess, President and CEO of HealthCare 21. Their website is located here. He proceeded to inform the Commissioners that "you need to be working with the administration." He proceeded to call out Billy Tindell's name at least 12 times. Telling the commission that he (Tindell) single handily stopped the process for Cigna in favor of Blue Cross Blue Shield. That he (Tindell) has a conflict of interest because he (Tindell) draws a retirement check. As he concluded his remarks. Tindell approached the podium and was recognized.

Tindell said Commissioners you need to understand that Burgess is paid by Knox County $20,000.00 a year. Tindell looked at Burgess and said is that figure right. Burgess said let me explain. Tindell maintained the podium and said just give me the figure. Burgess said HealthCare 21 is paid $20,000.00 a year. So, Tindell said o.k. HealthCare 21 is paid $20,000.00 a year. Tindell walked away and Burgess took the podium back and said o.k. since I have been accused of being paid for and working for Mayor Ragsdale. Knox County has been a member of HealthCare 21 since before Mayor Ragsdale has been Mayor. To which County Commission Chairman Scott Moore said "No one has mentioned Mayor Ragsdale." Burgess sat down and laughter was heard from around the large assembly room.

County Commission Chairman Scott Moore then asked about Knox County Benefits Manager Brian Barnard. Saying that he understood that Barnard was a former Cigna employee and that his wife is a current employee of Cigna. Barnard then approached the podium in an irritated, hostile manner and said. "I do come from Cigna, I let my license lapse. My wife is a salaried employee of Cigna." He continued with a statement that her salary does not come from the small amount that Knox County would pay to administer the Knox County self insured insurance.

Shortly thereafter the Intergovernmental committee passed the substitute motion to send this item with no recommendation to the full commission for Monday September 24 Commission meeting. The substitute motion that had been made by Commission Chairman Scott Moore nearly 45 minutes earlier.

Stay Tuned.


Anonymous said...

Burgess came across much better than Tindell - at least from where I was sitting. It was also mentioned at the podium and again in the KNS that Tindell missed about 1/2 the meetings during the evaluation process and then stepped in during the 11th hour to oppose.

Some of that laughter you refer to was pointed at the overall irony of the conflict of interest that indeed exists in all of this - or at least that was the case for those sitting near me. Of course, the folks I was with aren't courthouse junkies so it was their first look at county government. They sure got a good look...

Business as usual down at the City/County Building.

Funny, this whole thing was supposedly solved after last year's fiasco by creating this little committee and now here we are again - politics as usual.

Lost in all of this is that the county is on the verge of making a the huge decision to self-insure its employees... Yet, we'd rather quibble with this kind of stuff.

Brian Hornback said...

Well it sounds like you have a similar position as the News-Sentinel reporter. If you don't like what Tindell says ignore the statement.

No word from the NS reporter that Burgess is attached to the county tit for $20k a year. Is that accurate reporting? No. But that is what her boss McElroy tells her to do.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of Cariten. There are strong rumors that Cariten (or atleast the Medicare portion)have/will be bought by Humana. I am an employee of Cariten and am very concerned. Rumors are running rampant in our company. A couple months ago, our CEO left and there is a new team in charge. Our new COO admitted there are discussions with Humana but a sale was not imminent, but went on to say it could happen in six months, 16 years... or three months... The rumor is we are supposed to have an announcement of some type next week on May 15.