Steamboat school employees could begin paying insurance premiums | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat school employees could begin paying insurance premiums







— Steamboat Springs School District employees may begin paying monthly premiums for medical insurance for the first time in recent history, if a new plan is approved by bargaining team members in the coming months.

A committee composed of employees, administrators and a board member have proposed $40 monthly premiums for the district's most popular PPO health insurance plan to help offset rising insurance costs weighing on the district's general fund.

"This is something that needs to happen," Mark Rydberg, district finance director, told bargaining team members during a meeting last week. "This is our path to some fiscal responsibility."

This year the district is picking up the full premium costs for employees, which is about $600 per person per month, while employees pay nothing. Employees do pay for insurance coverage for spouses and children.

A single employee on the plan currently has a deductible of $2,000 and an out-of-pocket maximum of $4,000.

While budgeting for healthcare is difficult every year, Rydberg said employee claims have been significantly higher and more frequent this year than in the past.

"We have more claims for more dollars," Rydberg said.

The district budgeted to spend $1.85 million on claims during the 2016-17 fiscal year, about 5 percent more than was paid out in the 2015-16 year.

But by the end of January, claims had already totaled $1.8 million, with five months remaining.

Under a new plan being shared with employees this month, deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums would each increase by $500, and a $40 monthly premium would be introduced, together generating an estimated $225,000 to help the district's health fund work toward self-sufficiency.

Currently, the district covers employee premiums for medical, dental and vision insurance at a cost of about $2.7 million this year.

The district, since at least 2014, has moved over extra general fund money each year to help balance the health fund. Because of the large number of claims this year, the district is expected to subsidize the fund by more than $400,000.

Next year's insurance premiums are expected to increase to $740 monthly for a single employee, with the $40 employee charge representing about 5 percent of the total cost.

Employees could still opt for a high-deductible plan and keep their premium costs free.

The new plan would not go into effect until approved by the district's Collaborative Bargaining Team, which meets next in early April.

The team is also reviewing new district salary schedules, which would eliminate "step" raises and instead place teachers on a sliding wage scale that moves by different percentages each year.

The new salary schedules aim to improve the district's ability to give annual raises it can sustain.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow