Changes on the horizon for school district healthcare plans

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, December 2, 2014 1:30pm
  • News

As structural changes to health care insurance delivery continue to roll out under the Affordable Health Care Act implementation, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District faces several big changes in its self-funded plans.

The district’s Board of Education met Tuesday to discuss options for some of the largest changes on the horizon — including a mandate set to roll out in 2015 that will require the district to offer some type of coverage to all employees who work more than 30 hours a week. For schools, the mandate means that temporary and variable hour employees, like substitute teachers, will have to be offered health insurance coverage.

The district has already implemented several changes to its health insurance plan.

Nearly 100 people were added to the plan when the ACA mandated that dependent children had to remain eligible for coverage up to age 26, said Colleen Savoie, principal account executive at Parker, Smith and Feek, the Anchorage-based brokerage used by the district.

In addition, the district eliminated its $2 million lifetime limit and annual dollar limits, began completely covering preventative health care services, and limited the amount of money that employees can contribute, pre-tax, to flexible spending accounts.

“All of these changes, while they are beneficial for the individuals involved, they do also cost money,” Savoie said.

Parker, Smith and Feek also provided a comparison of medical benefits for public plans between KPBSD and several other institutions including school districts in Juneau, Anchorage, Mat-Su and Kodiak as well as the University of Alaska, the state, the borough and the Central Peninsula Hospital Denali Plan.

While the district’s coverage is comparable to those institutions in some areas, there were others in which it is much more competitive.

For instance, the per-person and per-family deductibles of $200 and $600, respectively, in the school district’s standard plan, are among the lowest among those institutions compared.

For the standard plan through Central Peninsula Hospital, those deductibles are $750 and $1,500 and through the University of Alaska, employees pay $750 and $2,250, according to the report.

The plans are not necessarily directly comparable, however, and some things covered under the district’s plan are not covered under other plans and vice versa.

“Health plans are not easy to compare, they don’t just line up next to each other and say ‘I have this and you have that,’” said assistant superintendent Dave Jones.

Board of education members discussed several recommendations for reducing the growing health care costs the district is facing.

Savoie offered several cost-saving recommendations in her report including that the district separate dental and vision benefits from its basic medical plan, offering a high-deductible health plan and adjusting its contribution rates to discourage employees from participating in the higher cost plans.

“High-deductible plans cause people to think about their health care spending,” Savoie said. “As we all know, when we are spending our own money, we think about it a bit more than when we’re spending somebody else’s money.”

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com.

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