Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lakeshore Hospital Authority News

Columbia County's Lakeshore Hosp Auth strikes again
Hosp Chieftain makes 48% profit on health benefits

The $100,000 a year man, Jack Berry representing the Governor appointed Hosp Auth Board at a recent Economic Dev. Board meeting.

When it comes to plain old good ol' boy cronyism, Columbia County's Governor appointed Lakeshore Hospital Authority Board takes a backseat to no one in Florida. The words and actions of both the Board and the newly appointed full-time $100,000 a year, ill equipped, and well connected ex Republican Chieftain, Jackson (Jack) P. Berry, should put everything these folks do into question. With the real unemployment figures in Columbia County approaching 20%, it is difficult to imagine how a 48% profit on his health insurance premium is allowed.

Doubletalk and slick accounting are nothing new in Columbia County

In August of 2009, Mr. Berry, as Chairman of the Hospital Authority Board, sent a letter to the County requesting that an Authority employee be piggybacked onto the County health insurance policy. This item was added to the County Consent Agenda, even though the proposed action was not legal.

At the August 20, 2009 County Commission meeting, County Manager Dale Williams was advised by a noted health insurance expert that the County could lose its Federal Section 125 tax exemption if the County added this person to the County's health insurance policy. County Manager Williams told the County Commission that this would not violate Section 125 and assured the Commission that the County would obtain this in writing.

It is not clear if Mr. Berry or anyone at the Hospital Authority checked with the Hospital Authority  accountant and internal/external auditor and financial consultant, Richard Powell, who also maintains the same positions with the County.

The County Manager never got the approval because the action that Mr. Berry suggested was not legal and the employee was not piggybacked onto the County health insurance program.

Columbia County health insurance -- use it or lose it

The policy of Columbia County is simple: You use it or you lose it. The County does not reimburse an employee who maintains their own insurance or if the employee is on the policy of a spouse.

2010 Hospital Authority Budget Hearing

In Sept of last year, Mr. Berry took some time to observer his protégé, Commissioner Jody DuPree, at work at a County Utility Sub Com meeting. Subsequently, Com DuPree recommended Mr. Berry to represent Columbia County on the Florida Wellness Council despite his wardrobe and other challenges.

Question: (to Jack Berry regarding his health insurance premium reimbursement) Do you get that money as a cash bonus? Do you pay tax on that money?

Mr. Berry explained that the employee is reimbursed the amount of money that the County Commission pays for health insurance for its employees.

Question: (To Board member Marc Vann) Does the Lakeshore Hospital Authority require the employee to show how much they pay for insurance?

Mr. Vann:  No.  He gets reimbursed based on what it would cost if it was a County policy...   What he pays for insurance is his business, not our business.

Question:  Does he pay taxes on that money?

Mr. Berry: Mr. Lilker, it is paid on a weekly basis, prorated on what the monthly fee is. It's paid in your paycheck as a reimbursement for health insurance. Whether you pay taxes on it or not is between the employee and his accountant when he files his taxes.

Neither Authority Manager Berry, Board member Vann, nor Hospital Authority accountant, Richard Powell would divulge how much Mr. Berry paid for his health insurance.

April 4, 2011

During the April 4, 2011 Hospital Authority meeting the question of Mr. Berry's health insurance reimbursement came up once again, when Hospital Authority Board Member Stephen Douglas addressed the Board asking if an employee decided not to take the coverage -- would they get a credit.

Mr. Berry explained, "The way it's done is, is we don't provide any coverage. We give em allowance equal to what the County is."

Mr. Douglas: OK. So an allowance (Berry cuts him off)

Mr. Berry jumped in, "They buy their own insurance. They just have to -- ah -- prove to be insurance." (Not typos – Mr. Berry is another Columbia County public official that is challenged by the English language.)

Mr. Douglas: OK.

The $100,000 a year Berry is making a 48% profit

With the stamp of approval of the Governor appointed Board, Jack Berry is making a 48% profit off the backs of the working families of Columbia County.

Mr. Berry, who is over 65 and on Medicare, according to an expert analysis, pays approximately $3,553 for his Medicare coverage. Columbia County pays $5,274 for medical insurance coverage for its employees. This is the amount that Mr. Berry is being reimbursed. He is pocketing $1721 a year in profit.

According to Board member Marc Vann and the rest of the Authority Board members, this is not the public's business.

This is business as usual in Florida's infamous Columbia County.

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

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