Frederick controller considers timing AMERICAN MICROWAVE CORP


FREDERICK -- Tammy Howe normally worries about health insurance for a few weeks every October -- an annual, but minor, administrative headache.

But this June, the controller of the American Microwave Corp. plant here says that headache turned into a migraine four months early as she has had to figure out what to do about insurance for the 21 workers there.

The plant policy doesn't lapse until Nov. 1, but her broker has recommended she switch to a new plan before July 1.

The reason: the state's reform of health insurance may increase her premiums drastically, her broker has warned.

If she can sign on to a policy with a new insurer before the end of the month, she can lock in pre-reform prices. And that might save her company tens of thousands of dollars.

Might. As in maybe.

And that's the problem vexing Ms. Howe.

She's happy with her current rates and insurer. And her workers like the generous, employer-subsidized plan, too. She'd rather not switch.

If she switches, some of her employees likely will have to switch doctors, which will probably annoy them.

"Everybody's fine. I don't really see the problem" or the need for all these changes, she said.

So, she's tempted to just wait until November and absorb whatever increase the reform causes.

But she's worried because of the ominous warnings of higher prices. Her broker has warned that, based on the prices other insurers are quoting, American Microwave, which makes radar detectors for the Patriot missile, may see its premiums rise by 50 percent.

"All he [her broker] has said to me is that the prices will go up, there is no doubt about it," Ms. Howe said.

Her broker can't tell exactly how much the new state-mandated insurance package will cost American Microwave, since it hasn't approved her insurer's proposal yet.

"There's no information," Ms. Howe complained. "And I've only got a week to decide," she said.

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