School Health Insurance Hike Up For Board Consideration

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A hefty increase in health insurance premiums tops the agenda of the Payson Unified School District Board of Education meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

The board will consider a recommendation from the Superintendent's Advisory Council to keep the same basic Blue Cross coverage, but with a 23-percent rate increase, according to Business Manager Bobette Sylvester.

"Blue Cross originally came to us with a 28-percent rate increase, but the broker and I went down there and negotiated the rate down," she said.

The council, which is made up of teachers from each school and representatives from each district department, also asked Sylvester to look into other types of insurance plans.

After evaluating two other possibilities and returning to their schools and departments for more input, the council overwhelmingly decided to recommend the current plan to the school board, despite the rate increase.

The school district pays for the employee's portion of health insurance coverage, while individual employees pay for family coverage. With 286 covered employees, the premium increase will cost the district about $183,000 annually.

Sylvester said the district has two dental insurance carriers that have also raised rates. "We have gone to bid on our disability and life coverage, and we hope to save a little money there," she said.

According to Sylvester, large health insurance premium increases are both an industry-wide and a nationwide problem. While the average premium increase has been in the range of 30- to 45-percent, "Some school districts in Tucson have been hit with rate increases of as much as 200 percent," she said.

Changes in state law allowing individuals to sue their HMOs and mandating chiropractic coverage have been factors locally, according to Sylvester.

Increases are based on individual program utilizations, Sylvester said, and utilization by PUSD employees has been about average.

"Groups in the education sector are more likely to avail themselves of preventative health services than other groups," she said.

The district is sponsoring a health fair March 28 for employees to encourage healthy behavior patterns and to bring in optional providers to talk to those who are not currently covered.

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