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Commissioners consider criminal charges in issue with former insurance company

Washington County commissioners are considering filing criminal charges against a health insurance company after more details emerged in a dispute between the company and the county over an estimated $360,000.
Washington County was in arbitration with its former health insurance administrator and policy holder, Corporate Systems, earlier this year following a disagreement over how much coverage the county had under its policy.
Corporate Systems was the health insurance administrator when the county was self-insured. At that time, county leaders were under the impression it had a “stop loss” program through the company, which essentially limits the amount of money the county would have to pay out in a year.
At a CIA committee meeting last week, a handful of commissioners explained that Corporate Systems had changed the way it calculated its maximum payouts, which resulted in the county’s having to pay an additional $360,000.
When Commissioner Ken Lyon asked how a company could change the policy without consent from the county, the issue of criminal charges took center stage.
Commissioners learned someone had, in fact, signed the paperwork on the county’s behalf. However, the signature appeared to be forged. Apparently, the individual’s name was misspelled on the paperwork and the signature was not that of the person it claimed to be.
“I didn’t realize this signature thing,” Lyon said. “When you start playing those games folks, that’s bad news.”
Following the discussion, CIA Chair Mark Ferguson agreed to contact the District Attorney about potentially filing criminal charges.
As far as the civil side of the dispute, county commissioners were unaware of where it stood until last week’s meeting when they appeared stunned to see attorney Rick Bearfield in attendance.
Bearfield came to the meeting to update the committee on the case. Commissioners, however, said they didn’t even know Bearfield was representing them in the dispute.
Bearfield reportedly was handed the case from County Attorney John Rambo in late August.
“This is 2007 or 2008 money we’re talking about and this case was just given to him. I don’t understand,” Ferguson said. “We’ve played around with this for two years and done nothing. It’s about time we do something. That’s all I know.”
Bearfield informed the committee members that Corporate Systems refused to take part in mediation and said a complaint has been drafted on the county’s behalf. Once the draft is given final approval, the complaint will be filed in the court system, effectively kicking off a lawsuit against Corporate Systems.
“The county has asserted that it suffered a fair amount of out-of-pocket expense as far as the difference in what it thought it was getting in stop loss and what it actually got,” Bearfield said. “Once this (lawsuit) is initiated, Corporate Systems will be required to make formal responses, and we’ll know more.”
Interestingly, Corporate Systems is being represented by Johnson City Attorney Erick Herrin, who was recently hired to represent Washington County in a lawsuit filed against the county by Clerk and Master Brenda Sneyd.