Fairfield County reaches $7.3 million settlement with Franklin County on insurance money - Lancaster Eagle Gazette
LANCASTER - The Fairfield County commissioners reached a settlement for $7.3 million with the Franklin County Health Insurance Cooperative regarding a past health insurance pool, or reserve, of $8.5 million.
The county won the $8.5 million judgment against the cooperative regarding the payment in May. But the Franklin County commissioners appealed to the Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals decision. On Tuesday, the Fairfield County commissioners passed a resolution accepting the agreement of the five-year dispute regarding their exit from the cooperative.
"In the absence of a settlement the litigation would have continued through the Fifth District Court of Appeals and likely the Supreme Court of Ohio," Commissioner Steve Davis said. "That would have taken somewhere on the order of three to four years to go through that appellate process at the Fifth District and the Ohio Supreme Court."
He said there was a small risk of either court coming to a different conclusion than a visiting judge in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court did when awarding the original $8.5 million to Fairfield County. Davis said that's why he and commissioners Jeff Fix and Dave Levacy agreed to the lesser amount of the settlement.
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Davis said Franklin County was facing the risk of losing the case and paying interest on top of the $8.5 million judgement.
"So for them to save $1.2 million on the judgement was their incentive," he said.
Davis said the Franklin County commissioners will no doubt pass a resolution affirming the agreement also.
The Franklin County commission's public affairs director Tyler Lowery released a statement from the commissioners.
"We’re pleased to have been able to reach a settlement in mediation with Fairfield County that is acceptable to both sides and glad to be able to move on from this long-time litigation," the commissioners said.
The issue stems from when the county withdrew from the cooperative to fund its own employee health insurance program.
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Davis previously said the county in 2016 had to give a six-month notice it was leaving the cooperative to get its reserve money back. He said the county actually gave seven months. Davis said the cooperative was not disputing that fact, but would still not return the money and the two sides went to court.
Fairfield County pays about $14 million in health costs annually and had a reserve of $1.3 million. The reserve will now jump to $8.6 million with the settlement.
"This moves the needle," Davis said. "This is a big deal for our employees."
The money will not go into the general fund. But the general fund is responsible for about 35% of the county's health insurance costs. Therefore, Davis said the money would ultimately benefit the general fund to a certain extent.
"I've asked our leadership team to kind of hit the pause button and not react immediately with pronouncements about usage," he said. "But to take the long view of things and be very thorough in their analysis of how to approach the now extremely sizable measure of reserves that we have in our self-insurance fund."
Along with the Franklin County commissioners, the cooperative is also listed as a defendant. The cooperative covers Franklin, Fairfield and Pickaway County employees.