Switching insurance plans may cut costs
With state budget concerns still weighing on Cy-Fair Independent School District, trustees are considering changing the district's health insurance to a statewide plan that could save $20 million next year.
Administrators asked the board to approve the switch on Monday, Feb. 14. The alternative, they said, would be to increase monthly premiums paid by employees by $150 to $200 to continue the existing program.
Trustees Larry Youngblood and Bill Morris stalled, saying they want feedback from teachers and employees.
At Youngblood's insistence, Superintendent David Anthony agreed to convene a joint meeting of the district's personnel and insurance committees at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21, to obtain input. A special board meeting will follow at 6 p.m. to vote on the proposal.
The self-insured district has about 8,100 employees enrolled in two plans. Not counting the district's contribution, employees' monthly costs range from $104 for employee-only coverage and from $550 for employee-family coverage in the health reimbursement account. The range is $150 for employee-only coverage to $720 for employee-family coverage in the health maintenance organization.
Contributions to the self-insured program have not covered expenses in five of the past six years, Associate Superintendent Stuart Snow said. Deficits have ranged from $1 million to nearly $11 million, he said, and the district has used general fund transfers to cover them.
"We simply cannot afford to assume the risk of loss in health care any longer," said Snow.
The Teachers Retirement System of Texas program offers four preferred provider organization plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield. The pharmacy plan is through Medco Health. March 1 is the deadline to join the state program for the 2011-12 year.
The PPO plan that most resembles the district's HRA plan would cost $62 per month for employee-only coverage and $440 per month for an employee and family. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are lower with the comparable TRS PPO, but the existing HRA plan pays more for covered services, 90 percent versus 80 percent for the PPO.
Snow said the $20 million savings amounts to 400 jobs. But neither he nor Anthony had vetted the program with district employee groups.
Youngblood said he can't be certain which program is preferred until he hears how employees will be affected. Morris said he wouldn't OK the change without feedback from the employee union.
Trustees Don Ryan and Bob Covey said few companies consult employees about their health-care preferences.
"That's the biggest problem I have with this board is that it doesn't ask the people they're serving what they think," Morris said.
"Teachers are more interested in keeping their jobs. We need to make sure they have a place to work," said board president John Ogletree.
After the meeting, several teachers and administrators said they had reviewed the proposed TRS program and were satisfied with it.
Goodson Middle School Principal Phyllis Hamilton said she had circulated information to her entire staff. The consensus is teachers can't afford higher premiums to keep the existing program, she said. They're even more worried about the budget uncertainties in Austin.