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County considers switching insurance brokers

Published: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 9:21 p.m. CDT

MORRIS – A crowded Grundy County boardroom heard heated public discussion and comment from Grundy County’s Board members, human resource director and insurance representatives during Tuesday’s board meeting.

The discussion was prompted by the county’s move to switch insurance brokers. The county’s current broker is Northern Insurance group, which is based in Morris and has been the county’s broker for the last five years. The county is considering switching to Williams-Manny Insurance Group, based in Rockford.

Members of the Grundy County personnel committee and the human resource director Debra Johnson claim there have been communication and professionalism issues with Northern Insurance.

“The existing broker’s tone and ability to deliver good service is not there,” Personnel Committee member Chris Balkema told the board.

During a special personnel committee meeting held immediately before the full board meeting, personnel committee chairwoman Vicki Geiger said Northern Insurance has not had any communication with the personnel committee in the last few years or more.

Johnson echoed Geiger and said the lack of communication is what prompted the Grundy County Insurance Committee – a subcommittee of the personnel committee created three months ago – to move forward with finding a new broker.

“I think if you’re going to pay $35,000, you should get something for your money,” Johnson said.

Johnson said initially, she thought switching brokers would save the county money, but in the end, the county would be paying almost the exact same amount for the proposed broker.

As of now, no discussion has been held about switching insurance providers. However, Johnson expressed interest in looking at other options.

County employees currently receive insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The county was scheduled to vote on the contract with Williams-Manny Insurance Group but could not vote on the resolution to enter into the contract because of a small inaccuracy in the submitted resolution.

A Northern Insurance representative addressed the board during public comment and addressed the accusations saying the company is willing to work with the county to try and mend the relationship and better communications.

The representative also expressed unhappiness with Johnson and some personnel committee members, who he felt were not treating Northern Insurance professionally and were trying to rush the process along.

He also cited a report written by the county eight months ago commending the services provided by Northern Insurance.

“We’re the broker of record and we haven’t been treated that way,” the representative said.

According to County Board members and Johnson, the county never entered into an official contract with Northern Insurance and can therefore switch brokers at any time.

There is a time constraint however, because the county’s current insurance plan expires in August and Johnson wants to look into new insurance options with the help of a new broker.

If the county wanted to change insurance, they would need to begin that process by June to allow enough time for open enrollment.

“I have higher expectations,” Johnson told the board. “I think you should be getting more for the money that you’re paying.”

The county will revisit and vote on the issue at June’s meeting, but it is unclear whether the majority of the board agreed with the switch.

“We’ve got a longstanding relationship with a company right here in this county,” board member John Galloway said. “I’d like to see the personnel committee and Northern try to make this work.”

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