Associations accept school district’s original health care offer

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Thursday, April 7, 2016 9:17pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations have accepted the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s original health care offer.

The two-tier plan from Feb. 9, 2015, includes the currently offered traditional plan, and adds the option of a high-deductible, high-premium plan, with a one-time chance to opt out at the time the employee is hired by the school district. The offer came immediately after the three negotiating teams met with leadership from the Public Education Health Trust on March 30, which the associations had proposed the school district sign on with next year.

The PEHT is a nonprofit, and arm of Alaska’s National Education Association. It helps large- and small-scale school districts, individual schools and education associations find access to affordable health care by pooling all members into a single trust. It also provides administrative management for its members, of which there are currently 24 statewide.

At a the March 30 meeting, PEHT Chief Financial Officer Rhonda Kitter fielded questions from Anchorage-based lawyer Saul Friedman, who represents the school district negotiating team, regarding rates, plans and costs. The PEHT made an offer to the school district March 29, that included a 5 percent load, to be removed after three years, which left all groups feeling skeptical.

“It is not necessarily undesirable; the problem is trying to educate central office staff to realize how the savings could be realized,” said KPEA spokesperson Matt Fischer Thursday.

At the end of the March 30 meeting Fischer said he was uncertain if his association’s members would support PEHT’s offer.

“With the district only contributing only $1,580 per month (its current per employee cap on the traditional plan) and the premiums coming in where they did, the employee portion would be too large, and I believe the teachers would not ratify the agreement if that is what was presented to them,” Fischer said Thursday.

The associations had been expecting up to a 10 percent load increase from what the school district is already paying in premiums, Fischer said.

“Essentially a load is an additional premium amount that the PEHT would keep as insurance against the health claims of district employees exceeding what the PEHT actuaries estimated,” said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff. “That amount is not returned to the (school) district even if it is later determined that there was no need for that 5 percent add-on. It was clarified that PEHT may decide not to collect it in years two and/or three.”

The school district was most concerned with the fact that any unnecessary payments would not be returned, she said.

“Additional questions were asked about the actual tracking of KPBSD claims — in order to determine the load percent (and if it is needed) the PEHT would track specific claims specific to KPBSD, however, PEHT will not release this information to KPBSD,” Erkeneff said.

The Trust made its offer based on a two-year analysis of the school district’s claims experience including diagnosis, census, medical disclosure and current plan designs, Kitter wrote in a March 30 email to Colleen Savoie, consultant to the school district’s Health Care Program Committee.

Following the meeting, the school district released the rates included in the offer from PEHT on the school district’s website. There were eight different medical plans, three dental and the option to add orthodontia.

Fischer said the offer from PEHT shows the school district’s employees have done a good job managing health care costs and that the current traditional plan “is a good bargain.” He also added that he believes the school district will not save as much as they project by adding a high-deductible, high-premium plan.

Erkeneff said the school district’s negotiating team is working on determining how they will respond, with direction given from the Board of Education during an executive session held Tuesday.

Salaries and benefits are also yet to be resolved, she said.

Advisory arbitration is still scheduled for June 1-2, with jointly selected Oregon-based arbitrator Gary Axon.

Reach Kelly Sullivan kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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