County leery of switch to Cigna

County leery of switch to Cigna

May 13th, 2011 by Dan Whisenhunt in News


1,900: Number of employees covered

$1 million: Savings promised by Cigna

Source: Hamilton County Commission

Hamilton County commissioners said Thursday they like saving money as much as the next elected body, but sounded wary of a proposal to save $1 million a year by switching insurance carriers.

Next week commissioners will consider hiring Cigna Health Insurance Co. instead of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. BlueCross has held the contract to administer the county's insurance since commissioners switched from Cigna in 2003.

Cigna tried to win back the business in 2006, saying it could save $800,000 to $1 million, but commissioners renewed with BlueCross.

Now, though, with the county about to lose $10.5 million in revenue from the end of a sales tax agreement with Chattanooga, leaders are looking for savings wherever they can find them.

"We've had experiences with Cigna I'm confident have been resolved," Mayor Jim Coppinger said. Nevertheless, "a lot of employees are going to be concerned when we go back to Cigna."

The taxpayer-funded insurance covers 1,900 county employees, said Donna Garrison, county benefits and compensation manager. Commissioners can sign up for it, too.

"Compared to BlueCross we feel the difference in the proposals will create $1 million in savings," Garrison said.

Commission Chairman Larry Henry said employees' costs will not change if the county decides to switch to Cigna.

Brent Wick, Cigna vice president of sales, and New Business Manager Brenton Johnson were at the commission meeting Thursday to assuage any worries commissioners had. Johnson told commissioners the main focus would be to make county employees healthier to reduce claims.

Commissioner Greg Beck referred to some painful experiences he had with the company, but did not offer any specific details.

"My family had a bad experience," Beck said. "It was really horrible. I'm just wondering if the claims are going to be better this time."

Wick said the company has worked on improving its service to customers.

"We invested a significant amount of money to our claim call centers to drive our service levels to where they're at today," Wick said.

In other business:

• Commissioners discussed buying property for the new Red Bank Middle School. The property, which is directly behind the high school, will cost $546,000.

• Henry announced that a committee to begin redrawing the commission districts will include himself, Beck and Commissioner Fred Skillern.