District's Insurance Switch Concerns Teachers Union
Board of Education considers awarding contract to third-party administrator.
The Board of Education considered a resolution Tuesday to award a contract to a third-party insurance administrator—and the action fueled concerns from union members that the new insurance plan is not equivalent to the previous one.
The board voted in favor of a resolution April 24 to change the dental and prescription plans, moving from Aetna to Delta Dental and from Aetna for prescriptions to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Business administrator Peter Starrs said the dental plan with Aetna would increase 7 percent, but Delta Dental only increases by 5.5 percent.
Board of education president Evan Lerner said at a previous meeting that this change will allow the district to provide equal or better coverage.
But teachers expressed concerns over this new administrator, particularly because they said the health insurance policy should not have been changed while the issue of insurance was part of the negotiations.
“So this is necessary because the change in health care providers was not equal to or better than what we had?” asked Steve Beatty, president of the Bridgewater-Raritan Education Association and social studies teacher at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School. “This provides insurance in the eventuality it is not equal.”
According to business administrator Peter Starrs, the hiring of the administrator allows the district to have someone to evaluate the situation if an employee comes forward saying he was provided coverage in the old plan that is not there now.
“If there was an issue that was previously covered, the employee would come to us and we make it whole,” he said.
Board of education member Jeffrey Brookner said he is confused by the wording of the resolution, although he understands the need for it.
The contract is with the Insurance Administrator of America, and provides for a payment of about $6 per employee, to be paid on a month-to-month basis as determined by how often the services are needed.
“I understand this is a pretty standard contractor for a third party to be hired to come in and determine the differential between two contracts to make every employee whole if a complaint is legitimate,” said superintendent of schools Michael Schilder. “Once it’s determined that there is a realistic and accurate claim, this third party sends us a bill and administers payment.”
Brookner said he understands that it accounts for an employee saying a co-pay was $5 with the old plan, and now it’s $10, or any other similar circumstance. But, he said, he doesn’t think the wording is clear enough.
The board opted to table the approval of the resolution while more information is gleaned from the district’s broker on the wording of the contract.
Schilder said the district could opt to do the work of the third party itself, but that it doesn’t really have the resources to do so.
“This requires specialists, and that’s what we’re doing, hiring specialists to handle this,” Starrs said.
Brookner said he is in support of that.
“I share concern about the language of the contract,” Brooker said. “This makes no mention of the fact that we have insurance, and it looks like we’re hiring someone to run self-insurance.”
But high school math teacher David Weth said he believes this whole issue is an instance of bait-and-switch.
“Only after being shamed into admitting the new health plan is not equal or better,” he said, “is when the board pays additional fees [for an outside party].”
Still, Brooker said, he does not think this decision should be made into a contract issue.
“I know there are members of the public and the union who want to make it sound like this is a big negotiations issue,” he said. “But this is us taking responsible decisions to say we are not going to let our employees get hurt. We are paying $90,000 to save $1 million.”