The Pine Bluff City Council Administration Committee agreed Thursday to reconvene Tuesday to allow three insurance carriers vying for city business extra time to submit revised proposals.

The Pine Bluff City Council Administration Committee agreed Thursday to reconvene Tuesday to allow three insurance carriers vying for city business extra time to submit revised proposals.


QualChoice — the city’s current insurance provider — had submitted a proposal that included a 2 percent rate reduction, while competing carriers United Health and Arkansas Blue Cross-Blue Shield had offered substantially greater reductions at 10.3 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively.


The QualChoice representative on Thursday presented a revised proposal that includes a 10 percent rate reduction.


"The city of Pine Bluff is an important client," said Billie Ann Askue, regional sales manager with QualChoice in Little Rock. "We re-evaluated our administrative costs and found further savings."


Johnny Reynolds, an account executive with Arkansas Blue Cross, asked if he would be able to have more time in which to prepare a revised proposal from his company.


Committee Chairman George Stepps and committee members Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Wayne Easterly voted to give the three representatives additional time to come up with revised bids after their initial numbers became public in a Wednesday newspaper article and the representatives asked for time to submit lower bids than their competitors.


Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said that she was concerned about the effect of the delay on the city’s overall 2015 budget preparations.


"We have already had to reschedule a number of department head meetings from earlier this week in order to have this meeting today," Hollingsworth said. "Now we are going to have to reschedule these for next week."


Finance department Director Steve Miller said that the city has some leeway on when the budget must be presented to the city council.


"While we normally have the budget ready to go the council by the first meeting in November, we technically have until Dec. 1 to get it done," Miller said. "These are some good proposals that we have here today and they look like they are likely to improve. So we have the time to see how much the city will potentially be able to save in insurance costs."


QualChoice has been the city’s employee insurance provider for the past six years, according to human resources department Director Vicki Conaway.


Assistant City Attorney Joe Childers said that if one of the competing carriers ends up with the city contract instead of QualChoice, then the city council must approve an ordinance that waives competitive bidding. Childers said Ben Trevino with First Arkansas Insurance is acting as a broker on the city’s behalf to select the most competitive insurance carriers for the city to choose from.


Childers said that the information provided by the three carriers are not formal bids, but are instead informational proposals provided to the city.


Trevino said that, when he began the process, he was looking at seven different insurance carriers.


"The companies here today are offering the most competitive rates," Trevino said.


Trevino said that he receives his fees from the insurance carriers themselves and does not receive any compensation from the city for his role as a broker.


The insurance company representatives agreed to submit their final proposals to Trevino on Monday. Trevino said he would have them ready for the administration committee on Tuesday. The three company representatives will each make a brief presentation to the committee at the Tuesday meeting.


The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday.