Tuesday, September 30, 2003
More than two dozen Steamboat Springs School District employees have dropped their dependents from the district's health insurance packages because of increased costs and decreased benefits.
The trend will save the district about $29,000 this year, but district officials said providing better health insurance for its employees is preferable to the savings.
"When they have to go elsewhere it's not a positive; it's not something we like to see," Superintendent Donna Howell said Tuesday. "I think our goal would be to find coverage that's affordable."
The district's history of high claims has made it difficult to attract better bids from insurance providers, members of the insurance committee said in August. A move this year from a preferred-provider organization III plan to a PPO IV plan kept premium increases at 10.9 percent, but benefits suffered as a result.
Co-pays were eliminated and a significantly more expensive prescription-drug package was put in place.
This year's rate hikes didn't come as a complete surprise to teachers, Finance Director Dale Mellor said. Earlier this year the district's Collective Bargaining Team recommended teachers look elsewhere for coverage for their dependents. All half-time or greater district employees must be covered under the district's plan because of a contractual obligation with The Urman Company; spouses and children may opt for other coverage.
"We knew it was going to be a really big hit for people," Mellor said.
Last year, 55 eligible district employees opted for family coverage, and 53 opted for employee-plus-one-dependent coverage. Just one month into the school year, about 16 employees have dropped the family coverage, and 15 have dropped employee-plus-one coverage, Mellor said.
The resulting savings to the district -- about $29,000 -- is, in part, being used to fund an additional English as a Second Language aide to meet the needs of the district's growing English Language Learner population, Howell said.
The district's insurance committee will look into attracting bids from other insurance providers, Howell said, but health-care costs are beyond the district's control.
"It's a serious issue everywhere," Howell said. "We don't want (employees) to be in a position where they have to make a tough choice. Health insurance is essential."
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