Insurance agent being recommended by Benefits Committee

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

After nearly 3-1/2 hours of deliberations with insurance agents, Marshall County's Employee Benefits Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend hiring a new agent to shop for a new health insurance policy for nearly 250 people.

Chris Harnett could now succeed Jim Malone, according to County Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Neill, a member of the Budget Committee that met in joint session with the Benefits Committee in the Courthouse Annex. Another joint session is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 20 when the Benefits Committee could make a recommendation to the Budget Committee.

The change in agents would be made official during a mid-September meeting of the County Commission when the county's 2009-10 budget is to be adopted.

Tuesday night's meeting was the second in recent weeks to include several agents representing their firms. All were competing to represent the county to underwriters.

The decision to recommend Harnett was a step toward lowering insurance costs and resolving controversy that arose when county employees were told their deductible payments would go from $500 a year to $2,500.

No set plan was selected Tuesday when Commissioner Jimmy Stitt took the lead again in questioning agents on what they believe they can accomplish for the county. Stitt and Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the budget Committee, arrived at the Courthouse Annex armed with spread sheets they'd worked up from numbers obtained at a previous meeting.

The numbers were, however, speculative -- not confirmed because none of the agents had been authorized to shop for the county, Neill explained Wednesday morning.

"He [Harnett] is in a bargaining position now," Neill said; "authorized to represent us. Previously, they were just shopping for numbers.

"The money Harnett will earn will be broker fees," she said, indicating that will depend on the policy selected. "It's all generated by the premiums."