By Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A supplemental insurance contract for all state employees might cost less and provide better coverage for such services as dental and vision insurance, but contracts are fragmented among more than 100 state agencies plus school districts and higher education entities, The Clarion-Ledger reports.

There’s also no requirement for competitive bidding or to get proposals for the best price or coverage.

And some Mississippi-based insurance companies tell the newspaper ( ) they’re being shut out in a process that is not very transparent, open for competition or regulated for fairness.

Since state employees pay most of the cost of supplemental insurance and “cafeteria plans,” the issue has mostly stayed off state leaders’ radar. The only recent legislative push, state Rep. William Shirley’s bill for consolidated dental coverage, was fought by agency leaders who don’t want to change and individual insurance agents who don’t want consolidation.

House Insurance Chairman Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said it passed in the House but the Senate never picked it up.

“Lots of members got calls from school districts, community colleges, state agencies,” he said. “The agents that have the contracts had great concern. They liked what they had. Our members started saying, ‘My community college board doesn’t want this.’

“But to me there’s no question there could be money savings” using the buying power of 180,000 people instead of smaller numbers per agency, Chism said.

The state provides health insurance for about 90,000 government and school workers thorugh a self-insurance program which also covers 90,000 dependants. It competitively bids out administration of the plan.

But employees must pay for supplemental coverage, such as dental, vision, long-term disability and other services, such as flexible spending accounts. State agencies provide payroll deduction and some in-house administration, but also choose just what to offer.

The state Department of Finance and Administration oversees the state’s health insurance but has no authority over supplemental plans, said Director Kevin Upchurch.

He said employees might save if agencies got together to get more clout, and was not aware of any ban on such cooperation.

He said he would see what his agency’s human resources director thinks about such a deal.


Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,

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