County may change how its health care plan is administered

Board of Supervisors to discuss the issue on Tuesday.
The county is looking at radically changing how its health plan is administered.

Instead of contracting with one company to oversee employee health care, the county is looking at partnering with three.

It all comes amid questions the current administrator has too close of a relationship with several local hospitals.

"They are not only controlling the $100 million, where it goes and how it goes, they are negotiating their own rates with themselves." That was Kern Taxpayer advocate Mike Turnipseed wondering last year whether Managed Care Systems' relationship with Dignity Hospitals might be a little too close.

MCS won the contract that, in part, controls where county employees get seen for health care.

But, MCS's parent company also owns Mercy and Memorial Hospitals.

Tuesday, County Administrative Officer John Nilon is set to recommend pulling the plug on the county MCS contract when it expires in June.

"Picking out the potential bidder that provides the best value for our dollar. That's what I am interested in doing," said Mick Gleason, First District Supervisor.

Instead, documents show Nilon will suggest the county partner with three different companies: Zenith American Solutions of Tampa, Florida, Clinix of Columbus, Ohio, and Burns Consulting of Maumee, Ohio.
 
The switch could save the county $4.1 million over three years.

"I'm concerned that they are not indigenous to Kern County, and some of the players are based out of Kern County. But, I am satisfied that they looked at the best value," said Gleason.

Each of the three companies would handle an aspect of county health care currently handled by MCS.

Gemcare CEO Robert Severs told us Monday he had no comment. He said we could see his reaction at the supervisors meeting.

But, MCS officials have insisted all along there is no conflict of interest.

"There is no funneling of patients. The physicians and the patients choose their providers in this plan designed for the county," said Brent Boyd, CEO of Managed Care Systems in August 2012.

Supervisors will take up the recommendation during their afternoon meeting Tuesday.
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