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County board members question bid process

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 2:45 p.m. CDT

Before choosing an employee health insurance provider Tuesday night, several Ogle County Board members raised questions over how the bidding process was conducted.

Dick Petrizzo, Davis Junction, questioned board chairman Kim Gouker, Byron, about why one insurance provider, the Crum Halsted Agency, was allowed to submit a second bid, lowering its first estimated cost, after the bids had been opened. 

"I think it's inappropriate that you went and gathered information from only one of the bidders," Petrizzo said.

He also questioned why the Query Agency, the current provider, was not notified as well to submit a second bid.

Gouker said he sought the second bid from Crum Halsted because, initially, they had only nine months of insurance claim data to base their bid on, while Query had 11 months.

He said the additional data became available for Crum Halsted only after the bids had been opened.

Claims were high during the first six months of the insurance year, which begins Aug. 1, Gouker said, but went down after that.

Having the additional information meant Crum Halsted could lower its bid, he said.

"Then what was the point of having them bid?" asked Lyle Hopkins, Polo.

"I would think you would want us to have the most competitive premium we can," Gouker said.

The Crum Halsted Agency presented costs for the Insurance Program Managers Group (IPMG), a self-funded insurance program sponsored by the United Counties Council of Illinois (UCCI).

Query offers county employees self-funded insurance through the Group Administrators program.

IPMG was recommended to the county board by the Finance, Revenue & Insurance Committee, which heard presentations from four insurance providers.

Committee member Greg Sparrow, Rochelle, said two other bidders, NFP Benefits and A. J. Gallagher Benefit Services, were ruled out early because their bids were much higher than either Crum Halsted's or Query's.

Pat Saunders, Polo, said she, too disagreed with allowing Crum Halsted to submit a second bid after the bids were opened.

She said the committee recommended accepting a bid that was not the lowest.

Gouker said that Crum Halsted's second bid is lower than Query's.

"I'm just a little concerned because the last time we didn't take the low bid we got sued," she said, referring to a situation that arose five years ago over bids for the courthouse renovations.

"I don't see where there would be any legal liability," said Gouker.

Pat Nordman, Oregon, a member of the Finance, Revenue & Insurance Committee, said the committee carefully considered all four bids.

She said the final bid from Crum Halsted was the lowest.

Board member Skip Kenney, Rochelle, questioned Gouker as to why he has taken over coordinating the health insurance program when in the past it has been handled by County Treasurer John Coffman.

"What gave you the authority to take it over from an elected official who was paid to do it?" Kenney asked.

Gouker said as county board chairman he changed how the process is handled.

"That's probably the most narcissistic approach to business I've ever seen," Kenney said.

A motion to approve a resolution to accept the Crum Halsted bid failed when the vote ended in an 11-11 tie.

A subsequent motion to accept Query's bid passed 13-9.

After the meeting Greg Query from the Query Agency said he was pleased to be the successful bidder.

"We're obviously very happy with the outcome," he said. "We've had a lot of [county] employees express their support for our program. We promise to do everything going forward to provide a high quality health insurance program."

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