By Rick Palsgrove
The Groveport Madison Board of Education’s approval of a change in the employee health insurance program and the decision making process behind it raised concerns from the district’s teachers.
On Oct. 11, the board unanimously voted to convert the employee group health plan it has with Anthem/Blue Cross Blue Shield from a fully insured to a self insured program effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Groveport Madison Treasurer John Walsh said the move will save the district about $2 million, or 17 percent, in annual premiums.
“That’s dollars we can keep in the district,” said Walsh.
According to Walsh, under a self insured program, the district will fund claims out of an account maintained for that purpose. He said the district has purchased stop gap reinsurance from Anthem in case of a large, catastrophic loss.
Walsh said Anthem will still process claims. Benefits and coverages under the plan will not change. He added that Anthem assured the district there will not be a rate increase on Jan. 1, 2018.
“Historically rates change on renewal each August, so I would bet there would be a rate increase in August 2018 whether we were a fully insured program or a self insured program,” said Walsh, who noted over the past two years health insurance rates for the district rose by 25 percent. He said the change from fully insured to self insured will give the district more control over the plan and could help mitigate future rate increases.
Walsh said the district pays 90 percent of the health insurance premiums while employees pay 10 percent. He said that will also not change.
Members of the Groveport Madison Local Education Association packed the board meeting on Oct. 11 and expressed their concerns about the change and the decision making process around it.
“I’ve seen this board have long, painstaking debates about logos,” said GMLEA President Joy Bock told the board. “We ask that you do the same on this insurance issue. Slow the roll so we can be fully educated about it. We have a good health plan in place and we’re (GMLEA) more than willing to sit down and talk about it in joint fashion. We deserve the opportunity to fully research this along side with you.”
In an interview after the meeting, Bock said the GMLEA is disappointed in the board’s unanimous approval to go to self-funded insurance “without the agreement of the insurance committee that has managed all insurance changes for decades.”
However, there appears to be a disagreement between the GMLEA and the district administration as to the role of the insurance committee.
“The insurance committee is part of the negotiated agreement between GMLEA and the district,” said Groveport Madison Communications Director Jeff Warner. “The committee’s only function, as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, is to review plan proposals when they come up for renewal and to select an insurance carrier.”
Warner said the proposal to move to a self-insured plan was presented to the insurance committee “as a courtesy.”
“Since how the plan is funded is not part of the negotiated agreement, it does not require a vote of the insurance committee,” said Warner.
Bock questioned the numbers that were presented to the insurance committee in September.
“The figures presented to the committee on Sept. 12, which caused the initial concern, like the mention of a 25 percent rate increase possible starting Jan. 1, 2018, were not presented to the board when Mr. Walsh said he did not anticipate a rate increase on Jan. 1,” said Bock. “We have not had a rate increase in January for decades, if ever.”
Warner disputes that is how the figures were presented to the committee.
“What was presented was that over the past two years we have had a cumulative insurance rate increase of 25 percent,” said Warner.
Bock said the board discussed the change for over a year but the information was not presented to the committee until June.
“The board suddenly decided to change the structure of this longstanding committee so they will now meet with representatives from GMLEA and OAPSE separately,” said Bock. “We are disappointed the district decided to work around its employees instead of with us. It shows a complete disregard for the concessions our members have made to help this district become financially solvent, most recently six zeros and two step freezes, as well as significant changes in the share of the insurance premium that we pay, sacrifices that will impact our members for the rest of their lives, and a complete lack of respect for the people who do the most important work in the district.”
Warner said the structure of the insurance committee has not been altered.
“Per the negotiated agreements with both bargaining units, GMLEA has an insurance committee and OAPSE has an insurance committee,” said Warner.
The current teachers’ contract expires on June 30, 2019 and negotiations for renewal usually begin about six months before the expiration, according to Bock
When asked how the health insurance change could affect contract negotiations, Bock said, “Insurance is always addressed prior to going into negotiations. The insurance committee asks for requests for proposals from all willing insurance providers. We look at the coverage, and the costs and areas where we maybe able to save. In 2014, Anthem was the cheapest option. However, we did change dental and life insurance providers to save the district money.”
Warner said there is nothing in the current contract between the district and its teachers that precludes the board from making the change in the health insurance program from fully insured to self insured.