Steamboat Springs With continuing increases in health insurance costs, the Steamboat Springs School District is finding itself in a pinch as far as this year's budget goes.
According to RE-2 district finance director Dale Mellor, the cost of health insurance for the local school district is up 9.6 percent over last year's costs.
This year, covering health insurance for the school district's employees will cost $76,000 more than last year. This year's grand total, Mellor said, is up to $790,430 for employee health insurance costs.
"This absolutely puts us in a pinch," he said. "Our finance formula increased 3.2 percent over last year."
That means the state of Colorado has allowed the school district to collect 3.2 percent more than it had last year.
"Given the kinds of increases we're looking at this year," Mellor said, "including health insurance, gas, utilities that's a lot of big increases that have to be absorbed into a small 3.2 percent finance formula."
"We've got a certain amount of money for our budget," he explained. "This is the money we have to spread around for everything."
This year, that budget is at $20 million. The general fund portion, which pays for books, supplies, and insurance, for example, is $14 million.
"The 9.6 percent increase in health insurance has to come out of that," he said.
The remaining $6 million is capital reserve for the district, which is spent on grant purposes, paying off the construction bond for the high school, and the lunch fund for feeding the students, Mellor said.
For now, Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Mellor are going back to the budget books to look at what kinds of the options the district may have in future years to alleviate some of the financial difficulties this year, Mellor said.
Routt County's Visiting Nurse Association Director Sue Birch said that at least part of the reason health insurance rates are increasing so quickly is because nationally, there are more uninsured people, and service providers like hospitals and clinics are shifting the costs to those that pay: employers.
"Employers can pay the insurance," Birch said. "And (the hospitals and clinics) have to make up the costs somewhere."
Birch was describing a dilemma in health care today, whereby employers offer insurers like, for example, Blue Cross Blue Shield, a certain amount of money to insure workers at a local hospital. Recently, because of the crunch on staffing and the amount of "charity" work hospitals have been forced to perform, hospitals are telling insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield that they need more money.
VNA itself is anticipating a similar 30 percent increase in the health insurance costs for its employees, she said.
Premiums have increased over two years by an average of 7 percent to 11 percent, and, for most employers, that means searching for ways to deal with additional costs, like asking employees to pickup a greater share of the costs for brand-name prescription drugs and shopping around among insurers for better deals than their current insurer offers.