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Scranton revising plan for third-party administrator of disability pensions

Times-Tribune - 9/7/2017

Sept. 07--After an unsuccessful effort to hire an outside administrator of disability pensions, Scranton is trying again.

The city issued a public notice in the Aug. 27-28 editions of The Times-Tribune requesting proposals by Sept. 27 for an "independent medical exam (IME) coordinator" of disability pensions.

This initiative comes after the city tried four months ago to attract a "third party administrator" of disability pensions, but garnered only one proposal, from Access Medical Evaluation of Livonia, Michigan. The city rejected that firm's proposal in May because it did not include several required affidavits.

"This (second request) is the latest iteration of what was originally characterized as the pension third-party administrator," city Business Administrator David Bulzoni said. "The process was reviewed and because of the lack of responses last time, we thought we'd streamline and isolate the disability process. Other components of the (first) request for proposals were separated out for future handling."

Though similar to the first request, the follow-up second request contains some revisions. Some of those include:

--The first request's scope of services called for managing disability pensions; the second request calls for managing the applications for disability pensions.

--The first request asked for a description of a firm's ability to challenge findings that do not appear to be an appropriate basis for granting a disability pension. The second request eliminates this paragraph.

--The first request asked for a firm to "make and update recommendations for a panel of specialist physicians to determine whether disability pension applicants are entitled to a disability pension." The second request changes that language to: "Provide a panel of board certified specialist physicians to help determine (via IME) the validity of the disability pension application."

"It's not markedly different," Bulzoni said of the new version. "It's still fairly general in its construction. We're hoping that a better definition of the responsibilities will get a better response" from firms submitting proposals.

A long-anticipated reform of Scranton's severely distressed pension system, the move toward an independent administrator of disability pensions stems from agreements reached in March 2016 between Mayor Bill Courtright and the police and firefighter unions.

Under those pacts, the unions agreed to having a third-party pension administrator and disability pensions approved by a physician with no ties to the city or unions.

An investigation by The Times-Tribune in 2014 found that Scranton had the highest percentage of firefighter and police officers collecting disability pensions statewide in 2012.

Contact the writer: jlockwood@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter

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(c)2017 The Times-Tribune (Scranton, Pa.)

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