Branson HR Director wants insurance competition

The Branson Board of Aldermen discussed at their most recent meeting the city’s benefits for their employees, which included comments from the city’s HR director regarding the current restructuring and the 2023 capital increase.

City HR Director Jan Fischer opened his presentation to the board and told them that the measures usually taken for insurance will not be done this year.

“I kind of revolve around what we do,” Fischer said. “Usually we get updates from our broker and our health insurance agent, I go to the HR committee, we review, we discuss where we can cut, tweaks, things like that, and then we come back and bring it to the board to make the final decision on where we want to go.

“This year, we already asked for a lot, we got it, and we see the same as we used to see. Anthem says we should have an increase closer to 28%, but since we only agreed to an increase of 9.9%, we are doing well. Well, that ‘incidental’ is an increase of $350,000, which is a lot of money.”

Fischer said the city’s losses were only slightly lower than last year, and he didn’t believe the increase made sense for the city.

“I am not satisfied [the renewal] that is the right path for us to take,” said Fischer. “The increase of $350,000 is necessary, we have to get that money from somewhere if we want to go that way. But the interesting thing is that we have almost exceeded what we said last year, what they say is last year, but last year we saw a reduction of 1%.

“Why did we see a 1% discount? We had fierce competition last year. We had JTS Financial out of Little Rock, we had Ollis Akers Arney competing with businesses to try to get our business. So, we’re not seeing the same competition this year. Opinions mine is to take a deep look and see what we need to do.”

Fischer said that many organizations have branches in the Branson area and he feels that some kind of competition would drive down costs and save the city money.

He also said that the 9.9% interest rate on the increase in insurance that was discussed by the previous administration was too high and he would have recommended that they negotiate with a lower rate.

“They didn’t have a good conversation with respect to the chase,” Fischer said. “That being said, after that, JTS Financial came back with a 5% reduction that city officials chose to reject.”

Fischer said the city needs to take “aggressive” action because he feels the city is missing out on the benefits of competing companies for the city’s business.

Mayor Larry Milton thanked Fischer for his “passion” and “action.”

“There may be people who understand what you’ve been going through, but I’ve been in HR [committee] “For a few years I understand what he’s saying,” Milton said.

Alderman Clay Cooper said that the board voted last fall for the package and Fischer confirmed that he wants an increase of $350,000 in less than a year. Fischer told Cooper that the city is still paying the 1 percent fee through Dec. 31.

“We’re in July, so what Jan is saying is if we don’t do anything, that’s what we experienced,” Milton said. “Jan says to be persistent.”

“Go buy it,” Cooper said.

“That’s true,” Milton replied.

Milton said he was “a big believer in shopping.” Alderman Ralph LeBlanc agreed with the mayor and said that often insurance companies and brokers seem to be betting on entertainment between cities.

“They’re betting on us that it’s too much work for them to take us seriously enough to go along with it,” LeBlanc said. “I think that’s what they’re rolling with, that this team and our champions just come through.”

LeBlanc praised Fischer for his efforts to save the city’s finances.

He said business people are making health decisions with insurance companies and they feel that every time it happens the health of the patient is not the most important thing, but instead what is important is the profit for the stakeholders.

Fischer said he wants to find a number of businesses that are looking for businesses.

“I want to see a tough race,” Fischer said. “Toss it up and the winner takes it all.”

He said he wants to submit a request for proposals that will not only provide health insurance but also dental insurance, life insurance, accidental death and amputation, etc.

“There’s a lot of things, but I’ve come back to the fact that competition is the key to mixing it all up,” Fischer said.

Milton said the annual cost to the city is $3.5 million.

“This is a cause worth spending time on,” Milton said.

Longtime City Manager Lisa Westfall pointed out that the city has the same carrier as last year, but the competition prompted them to bring the proposal to the city with a 1% discount. Westfall said he asked at the HR committee meeting what the city had done in the last six months to go from a negative 1% rate to an increase of about 10%, which would have been 28% without interest.

Fischer also told the board that he believes Anthem, the current carrier, is misleading in the last year’s competition.

“Anthem wasn’t in my opinion above and publishing what we wanted and putting the other retailer at great risk,” Fischer said. “That data came out and [the losing firm] when he found it, he was able to make a good purchase, and the broker came back with a 5% discount and we missed out. “

The presentation was intended only for discussion and information for the aldermen so no formal vote was taken, however Milton told Fischer to move forward with the competing plans.