Hardy Plumbing
January 19, 2011

Eye Insurance Idea



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Could a cooperative effort curtail costs? Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley thinks so. Accompanied by Scott Bradley of Cook, Hall & Hyde, he's been making the rounds of local municipal boards looking to develop interest in the East End Cooperative Health Plan Initiative.

Budget busting municipal health care costs -- they could more than double in his village over the next several years, Epley said – spurred an effort to study the most effective ways to offer health care benefits.

Recent changes in state insurance law allow public entities, such as town or village governments, or school, fire or library districts to join together to form a Municipal Cooperative Health Benefit Plan. A minimum of three public entities and 2000 total employees is required to form the MCHBP. The self-insured plan will allow participants to "achieve local control, scale, share plan administrative costs and deliver long term taxpayer sustainability," according to a glossy presentation prepared by the pair.

Last month Epley and Bradley appeared before the East Hampton Village Board and last week, they made their case before the Southampton Town Board. Before launching the plan, the two propose conducting a feasibility study. They asked the village to contribute about $4000 and the town to chip in over $8000. Neither made a commitment to do so.

The duo has yet to visit East Hampton Town. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said that while he'd be happy to offer Epley the chance to speak with his board, "The devil is in the details and scale is a very, very important detail in most insurance rates. I don't see how a scale of local municipalities can equal the massive scale of New York State." Still, Wilkinson said he'd be happy to look at any proposal that could offer sustained savings.

Discussing the plan in Southampton last Friday, Bradley noted a variety of ways in which is would be superior to the New York State Health Insurance Program. Many local municipalities utilize the Empire Plan, as NYSHIP is also known.

Bradley was in the news three years ago, when he touted Empire's attributes in a presentation to an irate East Hampton Town Board. Readers may recall that town board was enraged when members learned disgraced former supervisor Bill McGintee snookered them into voting to switch the town's insurance coverage from the self insured plan to NYSHIP. For the next two years, the town paid Cook, Hall & Hyde some $50,000 a year to act as a facilitator of the Empire Plan. When Wilkinson took office last year, he eliminated the stipend.

So far, only Southampton Village has signed on to contribute to the study.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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