Schools will pay more for healthcare

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 16, 2005

Teacher salaries aren’t the only things changing to keep up neighboring school divisions.

On Thursday, the Suffolk School Board approved an overall 7 percent increase in its employee health and dental insurance rates-the largest in as many years.

The measure passed by a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Lorraine Skeeter and board member William Hill opposing the measure. Both indicated they wanted more time to study the information and would like to wait until Vice Chairman James Perkinson and board member Sharon Harris were present.

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The change means school division employees will have to dig a little deeper to cover co-pays: HMO co-pays are doubling, from $5 to $10; PPO co-pays will climb from $10 to $15.

But the more than 200 employees whose policies cover spouses or family members will see money back in their pockets.

The School Board has traditionally only paid 20 percent of the cost of putting the employee’s family members on the policies. Beginning next year, the school system is upping its contribution on the premium to 70 percent.

In other words, eligible employees will be saving between $72 and $238 per month, depending up the level of coverage they have.

&uot;Some employees will realize small increases in rates while others on the extended plans will realize substantial savings compared to the current rates,&uot; said Michael K. Brinkley, the school division’s executive director of finance.

The changes will bring the school system in line with what neighboring divisions are offering, he said. He said he polled several local school systems during the insurance negotiation process.

&uot;We’ve provided very rich plans to our employees throughout the past seven years with only minor changes to co-pays,&uot; Brinkley said. &uot;On the other hand, healthcare costs have continued to escalate throughout this time.

&uot;In effect, the School Board has absorbed these increased medical costs with little additional contributions from employees.&uot;

The school system’s insurance consultant believes the rate increases are justified, he said.

&uot;They agree our current employee co-pays are much too generous in this day and time and should be adjusted to come closer to the plans of surrounding school districts,&uot; Brinkley said.