SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins called a press conference Tuesday afternoon, looking to once again clarify the city’s plans for employee and retiree health care coverage.
In response to allegations that Willis-Knighton’s insurance partner did not receive a Request for Proposal, the mayor shared two packets with the public showing that RFPs were sent to both Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The mayor clarified that their consultant Gallagher sent the RFP and the City of Shreveport did not.
“The reason you haven’t seen an RFP from the City of Shreveport is because our city contractors, Gallagher, issued the RFP. We can send you the e-mail where Gallagher told us they issued the RFP, but it was not the City of Shreveport’s responsibility to issue the RFP,” Perkins said.
Perkins said Gallagher responded on Monday, allowing them to move forward with the Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield responses. However, the back and forth continued at today’s city council meeting with city officials at odds with one of the insurance companies.
An outside attorney for AETNA who said she was authorized to make a statement refuted Perkins’s claim that a Request for Proposal was issued on July 15.
“I’ll say it again. No, AETNA was never provided an RFP. Period. What AETNA did get was isolated e-mail requests which AETNA quickly put into a standard template document from its library three hours before the meeting. Mr. Whitehorn has produced a document from AETNA labeled as a proposal. But he did not produce a document from the City or Gallagher labeled as a Request for Proposal. No, he didn’t. That’s because no such document exists. If it did exist, surely we would all see it by now,” said AETNA attorney Jennifer Herbert.
The city said they have a public document from AETNA dated in April, and the city’s consulting group Gallagher received an e-mail with an attached RFP in July.
“This is from Gallagher. This is the July document. Once again, she just conflated two different documents. April presentation. July document. It says AETNA proposal presented to the City of Shreveport,” Perkins said.
Now the mayor is calling on AETNA to release their documents to clear up the matter, which the attorney claims are confidential propriety. Councilmembers came to the mayor’s defense.
“There’s no reason AETNA can’t make that document public,” said District C Councilman John Nickelson. “Sunshine would really help this process. If that’s what you expect from the City of Shreveport. Then you, as a third-party administrator, should be willing to swallow the same pill.”
Some suggest Gallagher may be a fault for a failure in communication.
“To me, it looks like a mess. I mean, we can’t see documents,” said District D Councilman Grayson Boucher. “I don’t know. But I honestly do not think in any way it’s the administration’s fault. I told Chief Whitehorn that, ‘I don’t think this is ya’lls fault, and it shouldn’t be on ya’lls backs.’ I think there was a drop somewhere. Maybe it was Gallagher. They were so disrespectful to the chairman that they wouldn’t even come speak to us last time.”
The council withdrew a resolution that would have removed the three-tier plan rejected by the Health Care Trust Fund Board last week and offer retirees an optional Medicare Advantage plan. The council did ratify the Medicare Advantage plan, which they stress is not mandatory but serves as another option for retirees. The Health Care Trust Fund Board will develop a new tiered plan and the council will have 15 days to ratify it or send it back to the board.
“But what is important to us as a council and important to our constituents is that our employees and retirees have all the information to make good informed decisions about their health care for next year. The other sticking point is the city doesn’t have the money in the trust fund to continue to pay for health care at the rate we are paying for it now,” said District B Councilwoman LeVette Fuller.
Fuller said the board would have to return to the drawing board and develop a new plan. Meetings are scheduled for next week to discuss a new plan.
The council emphasized that no employees or retirees would lose access to their Willis-Knighton doctors.
Councilman James Green says he’s in talks with local attorney Ron Miciotto to bring the city and Willis-Knighton together to make a win-win for everyone. He says the mayor gladly accepted the opportunity.