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County names health insurance agent before bid deadline

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Court previously advertised that it would accept bids through Nov. 6

By Stephen Lega

A few weeks ago, the Marion County Fiscal Court unanimously voted to seek requests for proposals for the county's health insurance in 2009.

The county placed ads in the Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 editions of The Lebanon Enterprise seeking group health insurance proposals. The proposals had to be turned in by 3 p.m. Nov. 6, according to those ads.

Nevertheless, a majority of the court decided last week who the county's insurance agent will be in 2009.

By a 3-2 vote, the court approved a motion to ask Mackey Hagan, who is the county's current insurance agent, to submit insurance plans from a variety of providers.

Magistrate John Arthur Elder III made the motion, and Magistrates Larry Caldwell and Jackie Wicker joined him in supporting the motion.

Magistrate Roger "Cotton" Smothers opposed the motion, citing concerns about keeping the process open to any local agent who wanted to bid on the county's insurance. Magistrate Steve Masterson joined Smothers in opposing the motion.

When the court met Sept. 18, the magistrates voted 4-0 in favor of running advertisements seeking insurance proposals for 2009. Elder was not present at that meeting.

Elder was present Oct. 2, and at that meeting, he said county employees were satisfied with their health care coverage and with the representation provided by Hagan.

"As a matter of fact it's better than I've heard in a long time," Elder said.

He continued to say that he'd spoken with some insurance agents who did not intend to bid on the county policy. They told him that insurance providers provide the same plans to any agent, according to Elder.

Elder then made a motion to ask Hagan to present the county with plans from various insurance providers.

"Personally, I think he's done a good job, served the county well, and above all served the employees well," Elder said.

Marion County Judge-Executive John G. Mattingly added that he was not aware of any complaints about Hagan's service.

"So you're just saying keep it in Mackey's hands without bidding it?" Magistrate  Smothers asked.

"That's exactly right," Elder said.

He added that the county's insurance policy wouldn't be determined by the agent, but rather by the proposals offered by insurance providers such as Anthem, Blue Cross and Humana.

Mattingly said that the bid process that the county already started would do that.

Smothers agreed with Elder that there haven't been any complaints about Hagan, but he also said he wouldn't want to tie the county's hands. Smothers said he would rather let other local agents have the opportunity to bid on the insurance.

Elder said the plans would still be the same.

"I just don't see any reason to go through the bidding process when we'll have that information at our hands and get quality service," he said.

Mattingly encouraged the court to do what's in the best interest of county employees.

Smothers said he didn't have anything against Hagan, he just didn't want to restrict the county's options.

"If there are other local agencies that want to bid it, at least they are given the opportunity," Smothers said.

While the majority of the court voted to approve Elder's motion, Masterson said he cast his no vote "in the true spirit of competition."

In other business:

- Debbie Yeager of The Lebanon Enterprise spoke to the court about a possible sponsorship of a publication for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade throughout Marion County. The magistrates agreed that they needed more information before making a decision.

- Judge Mattingly reported that an E-911 specialist from Windstream would be in the county at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 to look at what equipment is already in place.

- Assistant Emergency Management Director Chuck Helm reported that the county would be hosting a training seminar Oct. 24-26 for emergency responders. Helm added that he anticipated 100 people would be part of the training.