Intergroupies

Despite its dismal record insuring state workers, Intergroup has been welcomed back with open arms. The move has some employees seething.

Indemnity is expensive, and the bottom line is Intergroup offered to do it cheaper, which may be the only real reason it got the contract.

"If you want to put the best face on the state's efforts, it could've come down to Intergroup or nothing," Jonathan Rose, a professor of law at ASU, says. "And if it was nothing, then people would've really screamed."

Rose thinks it's a question of whether the state should provide the kind of plans its employees want.

"The employer can't force people to bid, and indemnity is a product that seems hard to make money on," he explains. "And there are lots of people who can't afford anything other than an HMO. But you also have a lot of people who want and can afford more, and the state has to find a balance."

Rose thinks the way the state currently determines its employer contribution inherently favors HMOs.

"If you want to make [other options] available, you need to get the state and the insurance companies together and ask them how to get incentives to bid different kinds of products," he says. "But the current policy of the state makes that unlikely.

"In the long run, it's more important to solve that problem," Rose says, because he believes the state is obligated to give employees an affordable choice as long as it's feasible.

In the short run, however, Harvey Smith thinks the entire bid process needs to start over. Any plan that includes Intergroup is not acceptable to him.

"I don't know why, but there does seem to be a great devotion by Bill Bell and company to Intergroup," he says. "It got to the point last time [during the earlier problems with Intergroup] that I'd send a letter to DOA and get a reply from Intergroup. There's something there, I don't know what it is. It may just be love.

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