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Is being “not illegal” ever really good enough?

My Brain Hurts, Monty Python "My Brain Hurts!"

Posted elsewhere today on nanewsweb.com is a follow-up story about the “Great Union County Employee Health Insurance Drama of 2017.” Unless you are already familiar with the facts, you might want to read it –boring and tedious though it may be — before reading the rest of this Rant.  http://nanewsweb.com/union-county-group-health-insurance-drama/

The central fact in this tempest-in-a-teapot is that this year the Union County Board of Supervisors, for the first time in many years, seriously considered quotations from more than one insurance agency for county employee health insurance. Many astute observers believe that action probably saved Union County taxpayers more than a quarter-million dollars in the coming year.  All readers must reach their own conclusions on that question from the facts on the public record.

Are there any accusations or plaudits to be distributed?

Several things about this situation were “not illegal”

Morgan White Group, the agency that enjoyed the county’s health insurance business without challenge for many years, is a solid organization and has earned a strong reputation for good service to Union County, its insured employees and the taxpayers.

The fact that Morgan White owns AmFirst, the “gap” insurer they recommended to the county is not contrary to any Mississippi law.  Morgan White’s insistence that AmFirst’s “A-” rating from A.M. Best is better than Gulf Guaranty’s “A Exceptional” rating by Demotech seems a bit of a “red herring” to me, but perhaps I am wrong.

Morgan White did not force an amazing lack of curiosity on former Union County Boards of Supervisors.

It was not illegal for all those contracts for all that taxpayer money to be awarded without competition for all those years.

It was certainly not illegal for taxpayers to elect board members to spend their money without monitoring and questioning their actions.

Providing “messy” due diligence is preferable to being agreeably “not illegal”

Morgan White is a strong and professional company, and I know of nothing wrong they have done this year or during their long service to us. Some Union County employees have spoken to us about the excellent service they have received from Morgan White during trying times for their families. They have done a good job for Union County, and I hope they come back next year with a best-ever proposal for insuring the health care of our county workers.

John Stroud has an unblemished reputation for integrity. He and his associated agents live in Union County and pay taxes here. The fact that money earned from insurance commissions is more likely to be spent here rather than in Oxford or Jackson is clearly good for our local economy.

The three county supervisors who voted in favor of the Stroud group’s proposal and the two who voted for Morgan White’s final proposal owe no apologies to anyone. Those who voted for the Stroud proposal believed that its being $44,569.44 less than that of the Morgan White was a good thing. They did their due diligence on the less expensive “gap” insurer.

I am sure the two supervisors who voted for the Morgan White package had good reasons. They are both good people. Perhaps they believed it was worth more because they thought AmFirst was the stronger “gap” insurer. The difference between the final two proposals was only $34.39 per employee per month.

Fourth District Supervisor Randy Owen called us at 8:43 a.m., Wednesday, March 22, and stated unequivocally that he voted against the Stroud group proposal because one or more of the associated agents is related to Ken Nowlin, a former insurance agent who was convicted several years ago of bribing a county supervisor in Lafayette County. He stated emphatically that he “would never vote for buying insurance” from anyone connected to Nowlin. Owen is the only member of the county board who was serving before the current term. Perhaps Supervisor Owen is a strong believer in the Old Testament concept of “sins of the fathers.” There’s nothing wrong with Old Testament believers.

It’s past time to ensure performance exceeds the “not illegal” standard

The fact that this new county board agreed to accept proposals from agents other than Morgan White was, and is, a laudable action. Discussion, due diligence and even occasional disagreements are, in the long run, good for the taxpayers. When is it ever wrong to seek a better deal on their behalf?

The failure of Union County voters to oversee their elected officials is not unique.

The failure of previous county boards to do some comparison shopping for such an expensive purchase for so many years is astonishing. Nothing in state law or sensible business practices prevented former supervisors from considering other insurance brokers.

I hope to believe these failures were due to complaisance and indolence and a little too much “good old boy” mentality and not to anything more sinister.

After dealing with this story and learning far more about insurance than I ever wanted to know, I recall the old Monty Python routine, “My Brain Hurts” and am looking around for a white handkerchief to put on my head. Enjoy...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7AihnLbw1E

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