Monday, November 22, 2010 – 05:30 a.m.

A federal investigation into allegations that various current and former San Bernardino County officials received special “V.I.P.” care at county-owned and operated Arrowhead Regional Medical Center (ARMC) has many people asking one big question.

Why?

All of the targeted individuals were, and still are, covered by excellent health insurance plans. Those plans are Kaiser Permanente, HealthNet HMO and HealthNet PPO.

Kasier Permanente and HeathNet HMO are utilized by 99% of all county employees. The HealthNet PPO is made available and subsidized for employees in the Needles region of the county, due to reduced health provider availability in the tri-state area.

However, other county employees may elect to purchase the coverage at cost-prohibitive rates. The only exception? County elected officials and the county administrative officer could have the plan for free.

Many county officials have fully-paid medical insurance coverage. The most costly, the HealthNet PPO Plan, currently has annual premiums as high as $34,602.10 for an employee with two or more dependents.

The full premium is paid for by the county.

Yes, I said fully-paid.

The plan not only has a co-payment feature, but a co-insurance feature as well. This means that out-of-pocket costs may have to meet a maximum annual co-insurance threshold.

And it’s not ten bucks!

Apparently this cost was too much for some to have to pay.

For others it may just simply have been a sense of entitlement and feeling special.

Nevertheless, the house of cards is falling down for all to see.

Former county administrative officer and ARMC administrator Mark Uffer, through his lawyer, and outgoing county counsel Ruth Stringer have both denied any knowledge of free care being given to any county officials.

It’ll be interesting to see how long all the denials last.

It’s no wonder employees at ARMC became incensed at the whole situation and started ‘keeping book’.