City hears insurance broker pitch

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In an effort to contain employee health insurance costs, city of Mineola staff and elected officials are examining a proposal by Brinson Benefits.

Demetra Bell-Runnels, a Brinson representative, met with the City Council during a recent work session to pitch the company’s approach to potentially broker and administer the city’s health insurance program.

“I just feel confident that without getting into your employee’s pockets we can save you some serious money,” Bell-Runnels told city officials.

Brinson handles health insurance for Smith County as well as the cities of Grand Saline and Lindale, according to Bell-Runnels.

The city of Mineola currently employs 48 people and is insured through The Benecon Group. Health insurance in fiscal 2018 took a roughly $499,000 bite out of the city’s general fund. In fiscal 2016, the cost stood at $654,000, and in fiscal 2017, the figure was $544,000.

Although the city experienced three consecutive years of declining costs “we know from talking to our current provider, Benecon, that it’s going to go back up,” said city Secretary/Finance Director Cindy Karch.

City staff is in the process of gathering more information about the city’s health insurance program, including costs, benefits and carriers.

“We know that as a city, we don’t want to just stick with the status quo,” she said. “So we’re going to shop – especially for these big (costs) – every couple of years. So that’s why we were looking at a broker to help us with the competitive bid process.”

The city’s current agent/broker for health insurance is Watkins Insurance, which helped save the city 17 percent on health insurance costs in recent years, according to Karch.

“We want to save the taxpayers money, and we want to provide the best benefits for our employs, and we want a lot of options,” she said.

The city has been more than pleased with the service provided by Watkins, Karch noted, but it is shopping around. “As stewards of taxpayers’ money, that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

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