Geostar gives county recommendations to save money

Trumbull already under contract for some of the cost-saving ideas

WARREN — The two suggestions made Wednesday by a company working to recommend cost-saving measures for Trumbull County centered on telemedicine services and hiring a company that would procure the county’s gas and electricity, but the county is already in contracts for those services.

While the county already has telemedicine services included in its health care plan, Mike Orbovich and Rob Green with Geostar proposed the county start paying a different company for the service, which would cost $4.95 per employee per month for about 900 employees, and would cost the county an additional $53,460 per year.

However, Green and Orbovich said more people would use the service with the company they proposed — First Stop Health — which they said would lead to a net savings of around $50,000 in health care costs because of a reduction of in-office visits. People can call to speak to a doctor rather than go in for an appointment.

The county has it now, but it is probably under-utilized, Green and Orbovich said. They requested a report on the amount the service is now used.

First Stop Health has a way of marketing the service to employees that is guaranteed to increase the use of the service, Orbovich and Green said, so the average reduction in health care costs is around $131,000 for about 900 employees.

The company will guarantee the savings, they said.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said the county should put more focus on the telemedicine service it now has and encourage more employees to use it with in-house methods instead of entering a new contract.

The service the county has now enables users to speak to their own doctor, while First Stop Health uses a pool of doctors from across the country.

Although Geostar was hired in January 2018 to look for ways for the county to save money by reviewing its contracts to look for mistakes, renegotiating terms and suggesting programs, the company at a meeting Wednesday with commissioners still didn’t have copies of the fixed-rate contracts for electricity and natural gas the county uses.

Turnover in the county’s point person to the company made it difficult to get items, Orbovich said. Rebecca Gerson worked as the county administrator from April through August. The company struggled to get responses from the county, Orbovich said. According to a timeline of the company’s activity with the county, they met with county officials in September to discuss a savings of 10 to 20 percent on electric and gas expenses, with a follow-up in November and December.

Orbovich and Green requested the contracts after suggesting the county try to end its existing fixed-rates contracts early to go with a rate that would be secured by a “large engineering firm” with ties to suppliers, Pennoni & Associates.

Orbovich and Green recommend entering a new contract with Pennoni & Associates to handle all aspects of energy procurement.

The county’s existing rate of $.05066 per kwh could be secured at $.0374 per kwh, like the firm did for Summit County, Orbovich and Green said.

The county now uses a fixed-rate, point-in-time contract, they said.

Jim Misocky, who handles special projects for the county and oversees the contracts, was asked to get them a copy of the contracts and determine if the county would even be able to exit them early for a different deal. It is unclear if Geostar asked for the contracts before, but the timeline of the company’s activities with the county show its emails or calls weren’t always responded to quickly.

Geostar also recommended switching to a different company called Kontrol to handle the county’s accounts payable system, even though a new one was just implemented and the auditor is not in favor of switching.

And Orbovich and Green said they found a savings of $272.75 per month in wireless phone bills.

The company is now going without pay to try to find 125 percent of the cost of its one-year contract in savings implemented for the county.

Geostar was paid $42,000 last year and is supposed to make recommendations that lead to about $62,000 in savings, or refund the amount.