SEBRING — The School Board of Highlands County approved a change to a different company, effective Jan. 1, for the administrative services for its self-insurance program.

Finance Director Richard “Bo” Birt explained the district chose Cigna in January 2019 to handle the processing of the claims for the district’s self-insurance health plan, but it was decided to bid it again.

“We did a bid last year and we decided to do a bid this year in the hopes that we could get an even better deal,” he said.

Cigna, Florida Blue and Aetna submitted bids. A comparison of the bids prepared by the district is based on $9 million in billed inpatient medical charges.

Based on the bids, the insurance committee recommended going back to Florida Blue, which has significantly better discounts in this market, Birt said. The district will save about $700,000 a year.

The district will be paying Florida Blue about $51 per employee, per month for its services. The district has been paying about $49.50 for Cigna, he said. Florida Blue is a little more, but the discounts will be better for an overall savings.

Birt offered an example of a discount — if you go to the hospital for a service and it costs $20,000, if the insurance carrier has a big discount it may cost $10,000. Each insurance carrier has different agreements with the different healthcare providers.

The change will not affect the employee clinic, which will continue to operate, Birt stressed.

Anytime you change carriers there will be minor differences in how they do things, but at this point the plan will be very similar, he said. The employees would be notified prior to any the changes.

Currently the district’s self-insurance plan is still “in the black,” Birt said. “We are still OK with our self-insurance plan.”

The only rate increase for next year, which was previously approved at a School Board meeting, is to raise the dependent coverage about 5%, he said.

The walk-in health clinic is saving the district a lot of money, Birt added.

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