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School workers' health care costs up

December 07, 2000

School workers' health care costs up



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


Health care insurance costs are going up for nearly 3,000 employees and retirees of the Washington County school system under a new three-plan package approved by the Board of Education.

The increases will range from about $2.21 to $32.19 per pay period, depending on the plan chosen and whether an employee has single or family coverage, according to a news release from Bill McKinley, executive director of support services.

The new package, which will be implemented in the spring, gives employees and retirees the option of choosing a Preferred Provider Organization, a Point of Service Plan or an Exclusive Provider Organization. The School Board's current plan is limited to a Preferred Provider Organization.

While employees are being offered more plans, the benefits in all of them will remain the same as they are under the board's current plan.

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"We did not sacrifice any benefits in any of these plans," said Chris South, the board's director of finance. "This maintains the current level of benefits."

Including dependents, 6,000 people are covered under the board's health care plan.

The changes came about after the board's Health Care Cost Containment Committee said the plans would alleviate inflation in the cost of medical claims. South is also chairman of the committee.

Health care benefits are expected to cost the board about $15.2 million in fiscal year 2002.

South said the new package reduces the rate of inflationary increase by 4.5 percent, or $650,000. The cost of savings between the various plans comes from the degree of choice an employee has when accessing care.

The package also allows employees to buy up or buy down from the less costly Point of Service option, depending upon their needs and financial situations. The board's contribution would be 85 percent of the Point of Service plan.

Sharon Chirgott, president of the Washington County Teachers Association, said she doesn't anticipate that teachers will have any problems approving the new plan. Teachers plan to negotiate the changes and then vote on them.

She said they would like the board to educate teachers about the changes before they're put in place. The WCTA sat in on the Health Care Cost Containment Committee meetings.

"We need to get the education in place before we can expect our members to say yea or nay," Chirgott said.

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