Rainy-day fund lessens health insurance blow

Jonathan Alder’s health insurance rates are going up, but thanks to money saved in a rainy-day fund, they aren’t going up as much as they could be.
Next year, according to Superintendent Doug Carpenter, the amount that Jonathan Alder employees pay for health insurance will increase 9.9 percent. The increase would have been 30.9 percent were it not for a little bargaining and an agreement to make an up-front payment to the insur-ance company of $40,000. The $40,000 comes from a health savings account the district has been building over the past few years. The account contains $229,000, though it will soon drop to $189,000 when the board makes its $40,000 payment at the beginning of the year.

Besides allowing the board to make lump payments to the insurance company every year to drive down rates, having a “nest egg” allows Jonathan Alder to have a higher deductible on its health insurance without employees feeling the pinch. In the past, employees paid 20 percent of their medical bills, and insurance paid 80 percent. To negotiate a lower rate, the district agreed to have a deductible or a set amount that a person’s medical bills would have to reach before insurance started paying. This year, the deductible for a single person was $3,000, however, the school board paid the first $2,500, leaving the employee to only pay the last $500 of the deductible before insurance kicked in. The deductible for a family was $6,000, with the board paying the first $5,000.

On average, the end result of this new system to the employee is about the same, explained Carpenter. Before the new insurance plan, employees paid 20 percent of their medical bills. Last year, employees paid, on average, 22.3 percent of their medical bills. Carpenter said that the district aims for employees to pay 20 percent, and when, as a whole, they pay more than that, the district puts an amount, equal to whatever they paid over 20 percent, into the account to pay off the deductible, so that the employees will benefit from it. With these measures in place, Jonathan Alder saves more than $100,000 a year, Carpenter said.

According to Robin Brown, a librarian at Monroe Elementary School, the  employee reaction to the insurance plan is positive.

“Overall, people are extremely happy, especially when they heard prescriptions were included,” she said, referring to the fact that prescription medication is covered, without co-pay, under the new plan.

In other matters, Principal Phil Harris sent a memo to the board, commending teacher Shauna Piatt and her cast and crew of the fall play “Maid to Order.” Harris also sent a memo commending Jonathan Alder High School student Jordan Byers for his participation in the Envirothon team that placed first in Madison County. Byers is a student in the turf, landscape and greenhouse management program at Tolles Career & Technical Center.

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