Over 400 employees of Lafourche Parish are going to have a new medical insurance carrier soon.
The Lafourche Parish Council voted to change their insurance broker from Alford and Associates Insurance Services to Gallagher Benefit Services in a vote of 6-2, with one absent. Councilman Aaron Melvin was not in attendance.
The change will affect employees of the Lafouche government, library and district attorney’s office and their families, but not the sheriff’s department, which is insured separately.
During a special council meeting Tuesday, held to make up for the cancelled meeting caused by the threat of hurricanes last week, council members deliberated the proposed change. Parish President Archie Chaisson argued that employees of the parish were not happy with the current insurance plan, and that by changing brokers sooner rather than later would allow the broker time to negotiate better options for the parish.
Councilmen Corey Perrillioux and Daniel Lorraine voted no, voicing desires to allow the current broker, Alford and Associates, the ability to finish the remainder of the year.
“The Council, in last December, voted on this policy that we have because it was the only one that was presented by the Parish President. We didn’t get to pick and choose which policy, which carrier and all that stuff,” said Perrillioux. “We voted on the broker and the policy that the administration put before us. Now, tonight, if we go with a new broker of record, that’s basically penalizing Alford and Associates for the remaining several months of this year at no fault of their own.”
Chaisson deferred the question to Parish Administrator Mitch Orgeron, who said that having one broker was more “efficient” and “timely.” According to Orgeron, changing brokers several months before the plan is renewed is common in the private sector.
Lafourche interviewed three brokers when making the decision: Alford and Associates, Laris Insurance, and Gallagher. The interviews took place on May 17, according to Orgeron.
Buddy Ledet, Employee Benefits Consultant with Gallagher, described it as a job interview. He said that it was important to only have a single broker negotiating on one’s behalf, otherwise brokers would step on one another’s negotiations. Brokers negotiate with the different insurance companies to try to find the best deal for their client.
“So what we are going to do over the next three or four months is we are going to go out to the market, find out if the plans they had were sufficient, if there were better options available, and we are going to bring those back to the administration to present the Council for approval for the 2021 plan,” said Ledet.
Asked how long these negotiations usually take, he said, up to two months and Gallagher will begin these negotiations “tomorrow.”
He added that the Council’s decision made it much more efficient to get the data he needs for negotiations.
“This eliminates us from having to go to the administration and say ‘hey we need claims data, hey we need this…,’ as broker of record, we can get that from the current carriers,” Ledet said.
The current plan costs the parish about $4 million per year and covers roughly 400 employees plus their families, said Orgeron.
During the meeting Chaisson said he had many complaints by many employees through emails. Asked to view those emails after the meeting, Chaisson said he could not reveal them because of medical privacy laws.
According to Justin Bourgeois, Insurance Consultant with Alford and Associates, the company learned that the parish wished to change plans, and requested information from the parish in June.
“We ended up putting between six to eight different programs together and we were ready to distribute them,” Bourgeois said. “All we needed was names and emails for the individual employees and the addresses if you wanted us to mail them out.”
The information was never provided, Bourgeois said. Chaisson said this action only came in the “11th hour,” and was just too late.
“They weren’t willing to admit in the broker interviews that the plan they had, our employees didn’t like, and we had issues with,” Chaisson said. “After that, they’re alright, they started sending us a load of information about all the technology… and everything else, and we pumped the brakes on it because we knew we were probably going to move in a different direction.”
Asked after the meeting how much Alford and Associates would expect to lose from the parish switching brokers, Bourgeois said he was not sure, but it would be substantial.