Self insurance seen by county as self-inflicted wound

Friday, November 20, 2009

Call it the contract that keeps on billing.

It's quite the opposite of the gift that keeps on giving - Marshall County's now-abandoned self-insurance program for workers compensation has remained a liability to be paid since the late 1990s.

That's according to discussion among members of the Marshall County Commission's Budget Committee during a Wednesday evening meeting in the Courthouse Annex.

For two years in the mid-to-late 1990s, Marshall County entered a pool agreement with other local governments to share, and possibly reduce, the burden of workers compensation claim costs.

County Accounts and Budget Director Freda Terry explained the dilemma when she presented the committeemen with a bill for $24,573 that's been left on the county's doorstep like an ugly orphan in a basket.

The group's self-funded workers compensation insurance pool included a separate insurance policy to be there if the pool ran out of money, Terry said.

However, "The re-insurer went bankrupt," she said.

That business insuring the pool, Commissioner Mary Ann Neill concluded, "was responsible until they went out of business."

Medical bills from workers compensation claims continue because patients still have medical costs, Terry said. As long as those costs continue, the past and present members of the self-funded workers-comp pool remain whether their reinsurance policy is there, or not.

Because of the county's contract with the pool, it's still obliged to pay continuing costs from claims even though the patients might not include Marshall County employees, she said.

The insurance pool has agreed to accept three lower payments to total the $24,573 by March, and while budget committeemen didn't like the situation, they voted to make time payments on the debt.

Nevertheless, on a suggestion from Commissioner Jimmy Wolaver, Commissioner Don Ledford moved to have County Attorney Ginger Shofner "find out if there's a way out of the contract." The other committeemen agreed.