A consultant has been chosen to look into the feasibility of Niagara County and its local governments joining a single health insurance consortium.
In a 10-0 vote, the Niagara County Supervisors Association, the body that brought forth the benefits consortium idea, awarded the study to Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Picked from three bidders, the firm gave an informational presentation at a June 10 meeting of the supervisors association explaining the consortium idea.
The towns of Lewiston and Porter did not submit a vote, said Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert.
The Niagara County Legislature voted unanimously Tuesday to take part in the study by providing data to Gallagher and appointing someone to serve on an ad hoc committee overseeing the study.
According to state law, a health consortium cannot be formed unless at least 2,000 employees are covered. In Niagara County, the other municipalities would need the county to participate because it has almost as many employees as the others combined, Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, C-Wheatfield, said last week.
So, at least for the study, the county’s participation is huge, Engert said.
“It’s extremely good news,” he said. “It’s appearing as though there is widespread support for the study.”
Engert said at least four other municipalities have passed resolutions authorizing their towns to participate in the study. So far, the village of Wilson and the towns of Wheatfield, Somerset and Wilson have approved such measures.
Most other local boards will be convening for business within the next couple of weeks, Engert said. Niagara County has three cities, 12 towns and three villages.
With the county on board, Engert said, the consortium could be a major player in the health care marketplace. That means a larger group would be positioned to provide quality health coverage by finding a more competitive price for a health plan.
But there is still work to be done. It’s expected the study would start next month and take about four months to complete. Then, a consortium board of directors and committees would be set up.
The first consortium ad hoc committee meeting is set for 6 p.m. July 22 at Somerset Town Hall, 8700 Haight Road. There is no cost and no obligation for a municipality to participate in the feasibility study, Engert said.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241, or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.