“I have asked Portsmouth Insurance Agency is to look at extending the current coverage one month so that we can take proposals,” Murray said.
C.B. Herrmann says that can’t be done.
“She asked if they could extend the policy a month or so, and I told her ‘no, you can’t legally do that,’” Herrmann said. “I said the policy would have to be renewed, and then there are cancellation provisions. We can’t extend that. It’s for a minimum of a year. It is the way the policy (is written). They were actually on the third renewal of the policy, and that is standard in the industry.”
Herrmann said no company will do a partial extension of a contract.
‘We were asked if we could, and I explained to her that was not legally possible — that there are provisions that you can cancel an insurance policy,” Herrmann said. “It is all stated in the policy.”
Shortly after the Portsmouth Daily Times broke the story that Murray had moved the insurance coverage from Portsmouth Insurance Agency to Mark Harner Insurance in Sciotoville, which essentially made a company in Jackson the actual carrier, Murray issued a clarification to city employees.
“There have been no changes to your current health insurance coverage. The only change I made was to move the coverage from one local agent (Portsmouth Insurance Agency) to another local (Sciotoville) agent, Mark Harner. I am reviewing the city’s health coverage to ensure that everyone is properly and adequately covered at the most affordable cost to the city. Again, there have been no changes to your health insurance coverage.”
Gary Duzan of Portsmouth Insurance Agency said the coverage went to Freedom Choice Benefits in Jackson, which Harner is associated with.
On Thursday, Murray said she had a reason to change companies when she did.
“I’m establishing a three-member independent body to review the proposals to determine the best coverage for the best value,” Murray said. “That was my entire intent from the beginning. That is what we will be doing.”
Murray said she has communicated her request to Portsmouth Insurance.
“They are aware of that,” Murray said. “They have submitted a proposal. We also have a proposal from the Public Entities Pool, and at least one other agent from Ironton has dropped his card off and we want to get back with him.”
Herrmann warned that the Public Entities Pool puts the liability on the city.
“She had said from the beginning that she was going to get a quote from the Public Entities Pool, but that is not insurance,” Herrmann said. “That’s a self-funded thing. She could look at another insured policy and make the decision, but to change the exposure of the city, which would require signing an inter-governmental contract assuming liability, that she would have to take that to (City) Council.”
The Public Entities Pool Web site identifies its program as a “group self-insurance program.”
Murray indicated she had not yet placed the proper advertisement for bids, and was in the process of looking into the proper way of doing that.
“I don’t want this to drag on, but we have coverage,” Murray said. “I’ve asked can we extend that? So we’re looking at whether or not we can extend that for a month or six weeks or something so that we will have time for companies to make proposals.”
Murray again said best coverage for the best price is the city’s criteria for choosing an agent.
“We have to get the best we can for the best cost,” Murray said. “That’s good practice no matter whether it’s government, or business, or in our homes. I’m sure everybody else does that too. I shop around for the best that I can get.”
Portsmouth City Solicitor Mike Jones said last week he disagreed with moving the insurance to begin with.
“From my perspective, I didn’t see any reason to make that switch at that particular time,” Jones said. “I understand her rationale of wanting to get various quotes from different insurance companies to try to get what the best deal is. But, I didn’t see, at that point, why we needed to change agents, because our agent, in my opinion, gave us day-to-day customer service and dealt with a lot of our issues with our employees. I didn’t see any reason at that point to change our agents.”
“We think that we provide above-average service and have proven that for the last 20 years,” Herrmann said. “I feel that our service, and what we have done for the city speaks a lot about our capabilities and our intentions. I think the proposal I gave her for the renewal is very favorable, and it’s about 5 percent lower than it was last year, with more coverage.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or email@example.com.