Joint County and School Board Committee Nixes Potential Combined Healthcare Contract

A joint healthcare plan for county and school district employees would neither offer substantial employer savings, nor be logistically appealing, members of the Board of Supervisors and the School Board determined during a joint committee meeting Monday night.

“We have different needs and we have different objectives, from what our employees need. We, as a county, have a focus on behavioral health for first responder trauma care. It’s a big deal for us here at the county. Maybe not so much for the schools,” Rob Krouse, the county’s human resources officer, said.

Both entities recently began long-term contracts with healthcare coverage providers. Both offer employees various packages that offer coverage from Cigna Healthcare, Delta Dental of Virginia, Davis Vision, and Express Scripts. The county’s five-year contract began at the start of 2021 and includes five, one-year renewal options. The school district’s contract agreement started at the beginning of 2020 and concludes Jan. 1, 2025 and includes two, three-year renewal options.

So, employees might not see a substantial difference between the coverage offerings from the two entities, Sylvia Glass (D-Broad Run), a one-time school district employee said.

“As an LCPS staff member and as a county person, I’ve had Cigna on both sides and I really couldn’t see the difference from what I was getting,” Glass said.

The county government offers benefits packages to all regular full-time, regular part-time, and full-time temporary employees. County employees have a choice of four different medical plans. The school district offers coverage to employees classified as full-time benefits eligible.

The richness of the plans is the biggest difference in the offerings from the two employers; the county plans include lower deductibles and higher premiums.

One question that arose during the Sept. 13 discussion was the potential savings in combining the employee pools, which would give a potential provider more members. 

“When you think about combining contracts, combining the underwriting, you would imagine that there are some economies of scale. That does make sense and that’s true to a certain extent,” Krouse said.

The county would stand to benefit far more savings-wise if given access to plans for larger employee pools, as the school district employs more than three times the number of subscribers that the county does. Still, though, those savings would only be seen in administrative fees, which account for roughly 4% of employer expenses on the county side, and 3% on the school district side. 

While both entities are satisfied with coverage offered by Cigna, Krouse pointed out that the status quo might change when current contracts expire, and the employers seek new bids.

“How do you reconcile that when you go out to bid, and you have two different sentiments with your employees. I think it’s an important exercise to engage in, but at the end of the day I think the stakeholders feel comfortable with maintaining our autonomy and I think we enjoy that flexibility to strategize and deploy those opinions on our own,” Krouse said.

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