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Greater Tompkins Intermunicipal Health Insurance Consortium Certified to Begin Operations

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Greater Tompkins Intermunicipal Health Insurance Consortium Certified to Begin Operations

Thursday, October 28, 2010
First-of-its-type collaborative will produce significant health care savings for municipalities, employees, taxpayers

More than four years after planning began, a 13-member intermunicipal health insurance consortium has earned the New York State certification it needs to begin operations, enabling all Tompkins County municipalities, large and small, to provide employee health benefits in a cost-effective way.

The Greater Tompkins County Municipal Health Insurance Consortium today announced it has received its Certificate of Authority from the New York State Insurance Department (NYSID) under Article 47 of the New York State insurance law. By pooling their resources through the Consortium, 13 participating municipalities are expected to save close to $900,000 in health benefits costs during the first year of operation.

Under terms of a Municipal Cooperative Agreement, approved by the State, the Consortium commenced operations as of October 1, 2010 and will begin collecting premiums and providing benefits as of January 1, 2011. The Greater Tompkins County Health Insurance Consortium, initiated by the Tompkins County Council of Governments (TCCOG), is the first new health insurance consortium to start up since Article 47 was enacted. Article 47 allows smaller municipal employers to participate in risk pools from which they were previously excluded, instead of being covered through more expensive Community Rated plans.

"I am extremely proud of the Consortium in earning its Article 47 Certificate of Authority," said Caroline Town Supervisor Don Barber, Chair of both TCCOG and the Consortium Board of Directors. "This is an example of intermunicipal cooperation of the highest order. Large employers joining to allow smaller employers the cost savings of larger pools and to move away from expensive Community Rated insurance, and then smaller employers picking up the slack when the larger employers didn't have excess funds to fill their share of the capital reserve.

"Although this has been a longer process than we had expected, I want to thank NYSID for listening and working with us to get over all of the hurdles to comply with Article 47. This Consortium is great news for our employees. Not only will they have lower premium contributions, but they will have a voice through our Joint Benefits Committee to review any benefit changes before action by the Consortium Board. Today is a day to truly celebrate the commitment and tenacity of the Consortium partners and the hard work of NYSID to shepherd this application to the Certificate."

New York State Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn notes, "The formation of the Tompkins County consortium is an excellent example of how local governments can work together to provide cost-effective health insurance for their employees and retirees and, at the same time, help reduce the cost of government. The Insurance Department is proud of its role in the formation of the consortium and is eager to help other areas in New York State create similar common-sense programs."

At today's news conference announcing the long-awaited Consortium start-up, New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton said, "I was glad to help link town and county officials from Tompkins County with the key Assembly committee chair and his staff. In meetings, we were able to talk about possible resolutions to the last sticking points on setting up this health care consortium. That opened the door fully to an agreement with the NYS Insurance Department to allow for this historic moment--'the first intermunicipal health insurance consortium of its type in New York State. I congratulate Don Barber and all the local elected officials who have worked for so long to make this happen."

The opportunity to explore the consortium arrangement and to build a plan structure was made possible by a more than quarter-million-dollar New York State Shared Municipal Services Incentive program grant, awarded by the Department of State in 2007 to Tompkins County on behalf of the Council of Governments.

"This is a great day for the member municipalities, our employees, and the taxpayers," states Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature. "However, we are ready to look to next steps to expand this great model even further. That means working with New York State to make it possible for nonprofit agencies, for example, to join our consortium. I invite New York State to join us in our ongoing efforts to make health insurance more affordable and accessible."

Participants in the Greater Tompkins County Municipal Health Insurance Consortium as the collaborative begins operation include Tompkins County; the City of Ithaca; the Towns of Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Enfield, Groton, Ithaca, and Ulysses; and the Villages of Cayuga Heights, Dryden, Groton, and Trumansburg. The Consortium Board of Directors consists of representatives of each member municipality and two labor/union officials. A Joint Committee on Plan Structure and Design is made up of representatives of each employee bargaining unit and each municipal participant.