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Results in on Niagara County health insurance study

LOCKPORT – Sixteen of the 26 municipalities and organizations that took part in a Niagara County health insurance study would save money if they bought insurance jointly.

That was the main conclusion of a feasibility study unveiled Tuesday at a meeting of the county’s cities, towns and villages in Lockport Town Hall.

The total savings would be $3.4 million a year if all the members joined the proposed consortium, although if only the 16 “winners” joined up, the collective savings would be $3.9 million, or 16 percent of what those municipalities spent in 2014 on employee health coverage.

The 10 “losers” would actually find themselves spending a total of $500,000, or 2 percent, more for health insurance under the consortium plan. But no one is required to join it.

“We thought, overall, this was good news,” said Charles H. McLauchlin, a vice president and actuary for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., the consulting firm that did the study.

The notion of joining forces on health insurance originated with Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert, who recruited his colleagues to take part in the study.

Engert said Somerset received a $220,500 state grant to help pay the costs of forming the consortium. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also has announced a $70 million pool of state funds to help with shared services projects among local governments, with a $20 million first prize for the most significant initiative, Engert said.

Only the City of Niagara Falls failed to join the consortium.

Also joining the study were the Niagara Falls Water Board and Housing Authority, the Royalton-Hartland and Barker school districts, and from Orleans County, the towns of Barre and Kendall. The 26 participants have a total of 2,778 employees receiving health insurance. Slightly more than half of those work for Niagara County.

Maureen H. Pelose, a Gallagher actuary, said the individual results are confidential and were to be emailed Wednesday; consultations with individual localities are scheduled for Friday.

Those who are still on board will meet again March 23.

Brian J. Thomas, a consultant, said the firm was faced with 52 different health plans, which the report seeks to reduce to three to be offered by the members that choose to join.

Engert said it was important to be able to tell workers that they wouldn’t lose benefits under a consortium format. The estimates assume there will be no change in health reimbursement accounts, Thomas said.