County wants out from group

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2000

The South County Insurance Alliance appears to be a county-based purchasing project that Mower County can do without.

Thursday, September 07, 2000

The South County Insurance Alliance appears to be a county-based purchasing project that Mower County can do without.

Email newsletter signup

On Tuesday, the five-member county board voted unanimously to disassociate itself with the group if the alliance continues to pursue a request for proposal process that seems to circumvent the original goals of the project.

Len Miller, Fourth District county commissioner, made the motion, and Gary Nemitz, Fifth District, seconded it before a 5-0 vote of approval.

The county board’s motion includes the provision that Mower County will seek to drop out of the nine-county project without spending any additional monies.

"It started out to avoid becoming an HMO, but that is exactly what we’re ending up with," Bruce Henricks, director of the Mower County Department of Human Services, said.

Margene Gunderson, community health services director, concurred.

"We wanted local providers’ involvement to better serve our clients’ needs, but without any data to support that, I have to conclude that’s not happening," Gunderson said.

"The alliance is simply not fulfilling its original purpose," Miller said.

That purpose, according to Miller, the county board’s avowed "expert" on the subject, was to improve the responsiveness of health care and social services system to Medicaid recipients’ needs.

He said it also was intended to improve the efficiency of the system by increasing competition and freeing some resources to use in improving the quality of services or access to those services.

"It also was intended to guarantee decision-making at the local level," Miller said.

Before he was through, the Fourth District county commissioner said the project also had failed to allow flexibility to align health care, public health and social services nor to improve quality of services to recipients.

Miller concluded the project has failed to increase opportunities for local providers to participate in system development and neither does it protect against cost-shifting or risk avoidance in the state’s Prepaid Medical Assistance Program.

"It goes on and on," Miller said at one point in his criticism of the alliance’s failure to meet its objectives.

"And," he added, "we lost all local autonomy. It’s totally opposite of what we intended it to do."

David Hillier, Third District, agreed. Hillier said he personally objects to the failure of the project to guarantee local autonomy, improve services or to get local providers involved.

"The objectives have changed or they have lost sight of them," Hillier said.

Henricks also cautioned the commissioners that the project’s administrative costs of continue to climb, listing $75,000 in computer software, $50,000 in office equipment and the addition of more personnel as examples.

The commissioners agreed and voted to opt out the project.

Henricks also told the commissioners the county should pursue its share of the $1.92 million in anticipated profits by the alliance in 2001.