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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.”

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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