Shreveport officials say Willis-Knighton will be included in ‘23 healthcare options for city employees, retirees

WK says it has not asked for ‘special treatment’
Willis-Knighton North in Shreveport
Willis-Knighton North in Shreveport
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 4:38 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 4:10 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - City of Shreveport officials are addressing what they’re calling “false information” regarding city employee and retiree health insurance.

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the city released information saying the current administration is working to make sure city employees and retirees have affordable health insurance that doesn’t limit what healthcare providers they can see. Officials say employees have not lost the ability to see Willis-Knighton Health System providers.

“The City of Shreveport has used the general fund to pay for the increase in healthcare costs for more than a decade,” said Mayor Adrian Perkins. “Instead of passing on that financial burden to employees and retirees, the city absorbed those costs. Since contributions have not kept pace with rising healthcare costs, the City of Shreveport and the Healthcare Trust Fund Board had to find a way to manage a $13 million deficit.”

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Officials say after coming through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the city took on another $5.3 million in healthcare costs to prevent rising rates for its employees. City employees and retirees were told at that time the city could no longer continue to take on costs, and that some changes would be coming for the 2023 enrollment period.

The city considered two insurance carriers: Aetna and BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana. City officials say the BlueCross BlueShield plan was $1.6 million less than Aetna’s offering, so the Healthcare Trust Fund Board selected the cheaper plan for 2023.

“The city must consider its financial obligations and liabilities and cannot continue absorbing the increasing cost of healthcare coverage with the general fund,” said Mayor Perkins. “The city must follow best practices and industry standards in all aspects of city government operations.”

The city says moving forward, the board will make a choice on pricing for all potential tiers and plans. The city will let employees and retirees know how much each option will cost. City officials say no healthcare system will be excluded.

On Thursday, Aug. 25, Willis-Knighton officials released the following information regarding this issue:

In response to the City of Shreveport’s news release regarding the City’s proposed health plan changes, Willis-Knighton would also like to clear up allegations of false information.

An email sent to Willis-Knighton and City representatives by the City’s advisor, Gallagher Benefits Services, on March 22, 2022, stated: “Per Administration’s instructions, this will all be done without a formal RFP.” However, at the City Council meeting on August 23, City officials stated that employee/retiree insurance options for 2023 had gone through a formal RFP process. Those officials indicated that an RFP was sent to Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield. This was surprising to us because this was not received by Willis-Knighton, and our insurance partner, Aetna, indicates they never received a formal RFP.

The City’s news release stated that Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s plan was “$1.6 million less than what was offered by Aetna.” Because the City did not follow its own formal RFP processes (which require written instructions to bidders), there was no way to be confident that the same information was provided to or requested from both insurers. The City’s RFP process was put in place to assure transparency and fair competition in the marketplace. Therefore, without following the City’s RFP bid process, there was no way to accurately compare the two insurance proposals to determine which was better.

To be clear, Willis-Knighton has not asked for special treatment. We advocate that all local providers (Willis-Knighton, Christus, Ochsner/LSU) be equally included as options for City employees/retirees.

Willis-Knighton remains the highest ranked health system in the area for quality of care, as noted by multiple independent rating agencies, including CMS. The majority of City employees, retirees and their families have chosen Willis-Knighton doctors and hospitals as their preferred providers of healthcare. The City stated in its recent news release that, “Nothing has been established that takes control away from the employee to select Willis-Knighton Health System for their healthcare needs.” That may be true. However, the proposed options include only Christus and Ochsner/LSU hospitals and doctors in Tier 1, pushing WK down to Tier 2. Employees/retirees who choose Tier 2 providers would likely pay more out of pocket costs, as is customary with tiered plans. If this is the case, employees/retirees who choose to continue receiving services from their WK doctors and hospitals would be financially penalized.

Willis-Knighton supports the position of many City employees/retirees who advocate that no changes should be made at this late hour, leaving the existing plan in place that treats all hospitals equally until a formal RFP can be issued. This would help assure that the City receives the best pricing and benefits for its employees/retirees.

As a healthcare organization headquartered in Shreveport, we want to be clear that we appreciate the City and all of its hardworking employees, past and present. Because we are locally owned and operated, we have a vested interest in the City’s future. Our goal has always been to work with the City to save money on the health plan, while assuring that employees/retirees can continue to receive the highest quality of care from Willis-Knighton without any financial penalties.

We believe the needs of City employees/retirees can be met best by an equitable bidding process that includes open, transparent communications.