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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 , 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 and social studies teacher at the . “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.”

Mike June 14, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Wow, ninety grand. That's 1.5 teachers. Or a couple of support staff. I wonder if he/she is related to anyone in upper management? I ask my peers in "private industry" if they're having their providers change very frequently (at least once a year, if not more) these days?
BRRES June 14, 2012 at 11:20 AM
A few months ago, the board of education (Mr. Lerner) stated that there were three major items being negotiated/holding up negotiations; salary, ilnstructional time (hours spent with children) and benefits. So, the board took one of these items off the table by forcing the switch to the state run benefits. Now they hire a third party insurance company (Mr. Starrs stated it is not insurance, but sorry it is part of the companies name: Insurance Administrator of America) to manage claims made by the members. Yet, Mr. Brookner stated at Tuesdays meeting and I quote, "I know there are members of the public and the union who want to make it sound like this is a big negotiations issue.” Yes, it is a big issue, the benefits you are forcing on the employees is not equal to or better than there current coverage and as stated earlier it was one of the BIG 3 items. The BREA and its members have every right to be angry, disgruntle and their morale lowered, they have been beat up for 18 months now. To the taxpayers, this imposed change is costing US money, somewhere around $93000 per year. If I am correct, we could hire two new teachers ($45,000 per year) to help lower the increased class sizes due to the cuts 2 years ago. Contact the BOE members and let them know that this needs to stop, a contract needs to be agreed upon. Our childrens futures are at stake. This is not a game - Get it Done Mr. Lerner and Mr. Brookner.
Sman June 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Since the greedy teachers do not know what they want . . .how is the BOE to know
Wilbur June 14, 2012 at 11:53 AM
@BRRES: You are absolutely right that this needs to stop and a contract needs to be agreed upon. But it takes two to agree to something, and I don't think Mr. Beatty will ever be satisfied with any offer.
BRRES June 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM
The teachers and staff want a fair agreement. They wanted to negotiate the benefit changes, not have them forced upon them. From what I have heard, the BREA was OK with the change, but it was to be part of package they were negotiating. The board forced this upon them. I don't know anyone who likes having changes imposed upon them. Go BREA, there are residents who are with you and we will prevail. Remember to vote in November and to break this current BOE up. They apparently don't CARE about our children. BUT, they do care about their top administrators, that's a fact (3 being paid above the state mandated salary cap.)
Metoo June 14, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Mr. Ed, is that you? I couldn't tell as there's usually teeth associated with your chatter, just a dark hole now. Try talking out of the other end.
BRRES June 14, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Wilbur, if you were at Tuesdays meeting, Mr. Beatty stated that they had tentatively agreed on a settlement and the BOE's attorney was speak with the NJEA rep about the salary guide and Mr. Lerner was the one who stopped it. I have heard Mr. Beatty speak several times and to me what he wants is a fair agreement for his members. In my opinion, what they are looking for is not a rediculous settlement, but a fair one. One that will have the members getting back some of what is being taken from them to pay for their benefits. Most employees, including Mr. Beatty at the top of the guide will not even being receiving pay increases.
Toni June 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I'm so disgusted with this BOE. Settle this thing now....it's ridiculous and embarrassing for our district. Mr. Lerner, you didn't have my vote last time, and you won't in the future.
Sman June 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM
The only thing the teachers want is MORE MORE MORE
Christopher B June 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Shame on the BOE - it's an absolute disgrace the way they are treating the teachers of our community, and I agree with Mike! It's shady, and interesting what the Adminstrators and BOE members will throw money at - pathetic.
BRRES June 14, 2012 at 01:16 PM
In the private sector, if an employee is doing a great job in their position where they are receiving awards, wouldn't they/you want to be rewarded. As a teacher stated at the BOE meeting Tuesday, how ironic that we are a reward school, but those responsible (the teachers) are not being rewarded. It's my belief that they don't want more, more, more, but rather what's fair, fair, fair. As a resident, parent and taxpayer, I want a settlement for the teachers, so they are happy and continue to do what they do best, teach our children.
ASW June 14, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I am disgusted with all of this - BOE and teachers. Grow up and wake up to life in the real world. BTW, employees in the real world (non teachers) have no say in the insurance plans offered by their companies.
Bridgewater parent June 14, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The point is that this new "insurance" would cost $90k to save a million!! So, it's not spending $90k, it is saving $910k!! Sounds like a good deal to me - a parent and taxpayer. Plus, it sounds like it would guarantee that teachers' benefits are not impacted. They complained that the plans weren't equivalent, but this makes up for that IF there turns out to be a problem.
BRRES June 14, 2012 at 02:29 PM
The question remains.... If the insurance the BOE is changing to and imposing on the teachers, then why do we need supplementary insurance? As a taxpayer, I agree to saving money. What I don't agree with is how Mr. Lerner, Mr. Brookner and the rest of the boe handled it. No doubt, we have disgruntled employees and we need to settle this. It WILL impact our children's education.
BREA INFO June 14, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Why has the Board of Education abandoned the Win-Win negotiating strategy for one that requires third party lawyers? That Win-Win strategy has afforded benefits to students, who attend one of the top high schools in both New Jersey and the nation. B-R teachers accomplish award winning results for student achievement, go to the District website and view the proof (numerous awards) - http://www.brrsd.k12.nj.us/super.cfm?subpage=2567 Learn more at www.b-rea.org WATCH VIDEO: View what community members are telling the Board of Education - http://b-rea.org/portfolio-items/stephanie-wilkins-why-boe-gave-bosses-raises-but-not-the-teachers/
jerzdvl25 June 14, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Yes, that may be true, but workers in the private sector can switch jobs at will. And I don't want to hear in this economy. If you have advanced degrees, like several BR teachers, employment is not that challenging in your field. My wife was not given a raise after being told she was an assest to her company. She starts her new job in two weeks with a 15% raise. Teachers do not have this luxury. Nor would you want teachers switching districts every two years!
We all pay taxes! June 14, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Hey Evan, You know what would have saved the district $90,000+...if you had resolved this contract months ago!! The BREA was willing to change to this plan if it was done as a part of the negotiations process. YOU chose change the benefits before so. Therefore, YOU are costing the district an additional $90,000+ on this "insurance". Plus, where are you pulling this "million dollars" you claim the district would have spent otherwise? Sounds like another case of throwing out arbitrary numbers to make your side look better!
Mike June 15, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Race to the bottom, it is these days. To jerzdvl25's point: yep, and can only really change once a year (May/June). Must give 60 days' notice. No different levels (unless you go to administration level, which is an entirely different job, really). These are just some areas different from the private sector. It's okay...President Romney will make it all right.
Mike June 15, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Then let's just keep hiring outside, non-instructional folk at $90K each and save even more!
Metoo June 15, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Yup Mike, the top keeps getting heavier and more expensive under this boe - unbelievable...
Wilbur June 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM
@metoo: Have you ever contributed any meaningful comments or additions to these discussions besides snarky comments? I looked at your profile and it appears not. Just another loudmouth **$ getting her giggles posting on the internet...
Concerned Citizen June 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Let's put teacher salaries aside for a moment and look at how the BOE decides to allocate it's funds. $32,000 above state-mandated salary cap for the superintendent. That could cover the $100 participation fee for 320 student athletes, or the $25 fee for 1,280 students involved in after school activities. Fees that many families are hard-pressed to pay, especially if their children participate in more than one sport. So is the BOE really putting parents/taxpayers and students first? Doesn't look like it. Mr. Lerner and Mr. Brookner talk in circles to keep people confused - or else they are confused themselves, which is even worse. Too bad they are not the ones up for reelection in November. Voting them out would have been a tidy fix for everyone.
BRRES June 15, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Concerned Citizen: What a great post! There are 2 other administrators also above the state cap, figure that in as well. I also agree, it's too bad these two idiots aren't up for re-election. They are the problem.
Mike June 15, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Kinda like giving tax breaks to the uber-wealthy vs spreading the same $ across many, many more middle class folk. Which makes the bigger (and more positive) difference in lives?
Paying my Taxes June 15, 2012 at 06:08 PM
It is the funny how the unit operates. The BOE wants the new insurance program but had issues with the BREA. However, the district learned of other districts that made the switch, without union approval. The opinion that they got, was as long as there was no increase in out of pocket costs to union members, the change could be made. So the district made the change- and then they arranged for a third party company to be an independant reviewer of any disputes- meaning teacher x feels there claim was denied but would have been covered under the old plan. The third party company will review and make a decision if the board needs to cover it. The contract with the third party is A MONTH TO MONTH PROGRAM and if goes a whole year will cost just south of $90,000- off set by the million plus in savings from changing plans. Congrats to the BOE for the out of box thinking to save the taxpayers money!!
Kids First June 15, 2012 at 06:59 PM
This article leaves out one important fact: In addition to dental & prescription plan changes, medical benefits switched from Aetna to Horizon. Co-pays used to be $5; now they're $10. The BOE will get a bill & administer payment for each instance. That means each time a member or someone in their family goes to a doctor, the BOE will owe then $5. The BOE will also have to reimburse any increase in out-of-pocket expenses for therapies, medical procedures, surgeries etc. Where will this money come from?

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