Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Puts Insurance Providers In Ring

Tyson Johnson addresses the Lake City, City Council
Tyson Johnson, "the hometown boy," of Lake City's Parks Johnson Insurance Agency fights for his $2,000,000 account in front of the Lake City, City Council.

Last night's Lake City, City Council meeting had "hometown boy" Tyson Johnson of the Parks Johnson Agency, the long time health insurance agent for the Lake City and Columbia County municipal governments standing in front of the City Council presenting his health insurance plan for Lake City's employees. He brought with him BlueCross BlueShield's big gun, after Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson decided sometime ago that he was going to find a way for Lake City to hold the line on health insurance costs.


According to City Manager Johnson, his fight to hold the line on the City's health care costs began shortly after he signed on as City Manager.

FMIT's Clay Austin
FMIT's Clay Austin appeared before the Council in Sept. Last night he listens to BCBS present their program.

During the September 20th City Council Health Insurance Workshop, in which Clay Austin from the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust (FMIT) presented his case, City Manager Johnson told the City Council and the public: "I started with our health care plan when I got here. FMIT brings a proposal which is the exact coverage we’ve got now.  The same cost we’ve got now. I worked with Tyson (Johnson) since February. I was told that it (increase) was going to be 12 to 18 percent. With FMIT there would be no increase. The Health Care Provider Network is essentially the same.  FMIT is working with the local providers to get them into the network."

FMIT uses United Health Care.

CM Johnson gave credit to the City's staff: "If the Lake City staff had done nothing the City's health care cost increases would have been in double digits."

City Manager Johnson wrapped up the September 20th meeting by inviting Tyson Johnson to sharpen his pencil and work up his best proposal and present his rates to the Council. The City Manager said, "This is not about taking away a home town business. This is about the economy and the benefits to the employee."

Last Night

Tyson Johnson
Tyson Johnson, address the Council.

Last night, Tyson Johnson, who described himself as the "hometown boy," had indeed, sharpened his pencil. He came before the Council with rates that matched the 9 month rate of FMIT, which will have the City's health insurance rates running concurrently with its budget year.

Tyson Johnson, who represents BlueCross BlueShield in Lake City, turned a 12-18% increase into a 5% increase.

Tyson Johnson told the Council: "Wendell challenged me to bring back a policy without a rate increase. BlueCross came back with a 5% rate increase."

Charlie Metzkes
Charlie Metzkes make his case for BCBS.

Charlie Metzkes, one of the big guns from BCBS, rode in from Jacksonville to help present the BCBS case. He pointed out that BCBS was "The leader in employee benefit solutions" and presented information showing that in Florida, BCBS is the health insurance provider of choice in 45 of the 67 counties and 52 of the 67 school boards.

Mr. Metzkes pointed out that BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS) does offer an option for a Health Savings Account, something that is not offered by FMIT-United Health Care.

Regarding the HSAs, he told the Council that he had an HSA, "If you were spending your money you might be a little more in tune with the cost... When people shop they get better deals. People are migrating to these products. Fifty percent of our membership is taking these types of plans."


City Manager Johnson seemed genuinely annoyed with BCBS and the years of unchecked rate increases.

It was clear that the City's insistence on bringing in health insurance competition brought down the BCBS price.

City Manager Johnson said, "It’s a tight budget year. I don’t want to see benefits diminish and a cost increase. Rates went up 300k last year."

This year's increase is 5%.

City Manager Johnson asked BCBS's Metzkes, "What was the change?"

Mr. Metzkes answered, "The plan year changed -- Because of 28 years of history.

Straight talking City Manager Johnson snapped back, "You can't spend twenty-eight years of history."

The City's diligence has resulted in two health insurance providers willing to provide health insurance for City employees at basically the same cost.

This is a good deal for the taxpayers, who foot the bill and the City's employees.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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