Education associations’ proposal shakes up health care issue

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Saturday, February 27, 2016 9:23pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Education and Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations’ newest proposal would void all previous health care plans discussed with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District during this round of collective bargaining.

The associations are proposing the school district sign on with the Public Education Health Trust, a program associated with the National Education Association of Alaska that provides and manages insurance for large-scale educational institutions.

Joining the trust would alleviate some financial “uncertainty” in the school district’s current health care system, which is self-funded, and an outside company would manage all employees’ plans, said Matt Fischer, representative for the association’s negotiating teams.

Up until early February, the three negotiating teams had been stuck on the issue of health care, specifically the implementation of a high-deductible plan that would be the sole option for employees with the chance to opt out and seek insurance elsewhere. Employees who chose to sign up with the school district would pay a deductible until a maximum out-of-pocket is reached.

The school district, represented by Anchorage-based lawyer Saul Friedman, preferred a $1,500 cap on the per employee, per month costs associated with the plan, while the associations preferred a $1,700 cap with the school district paying 85 percent of an employee’s medical expenses once the cap is reached.

The subject led to a stalemate in late January. The three teams agreed to schedule arbitration. Oregon-based arbiter Gary Axon was mutually selected to meet with the teams on June 1-2, and the cost would be evenly distributed.

The three teams will most likely meet again before arbitration, said Pegge Erkeneff, school district spokesperson.

“The district is hopeful that a date prior to arbitration will be set, and anticipates that as soon as the critical information about cost and benefits from the Public Education Health Trust (PEHT) is available with a representative to answer questions, a date could be mutually agreed upon to return to the bargaining table with the associations,” Erkeneff said.

In fact, a date had been set for Feb. 22, but requested information was not yet available from the trust, she said.

“In analyzing the proposal, associated costs and benefits, KPBSD requested that at the next negotiating session that a representative from the PEHT would be available to answer specific questions about the cost and benefits of the PEHT if it were to be selected by KPBSD,” Erkeneff said.

Fischer said the school district has to also apply to the trust, and find out if it would be accepted as a client.

Health care is one of the most contentious issues in the school district, Fischer said. The employee pool has become too big to be easily manageable as a self-funded entity, he said.

If adopted, the associations’ proposal would save millions annually for the school district, “which includes paying employees that have other insurance $400 per month to opt out in instead of a full policy, saving the District  $1,180 per month,” Fischer said.

It would equate to savings because the school district is already paying $1,580 a month in per employee, per month costs, he said.

“A really big concession we agreed to in our proposal is that new employees would only be eligible for health care if they work 0.75 FTE (Full Time Equivalent) or more,” Fischer said. “Currently it is 0.5 FTE or more.”

Dates for subsequent meetings will be moved around as information becomes available, Fischer said.

The negotiations were supposed to settle contracts set to begin on July 1, 2015.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Alexis Alamillo, of Anchorage, carries a sockeye salmon caught in a dipnet from the mouth of the Kenai River on Wednesday.
Kenai River dipnetting now open 24 hours a day

The liberalization of fishing regulation was effective starting Thursday evening

A drone rises into the air while kicking up dust, departing on a test flight for the use of beyond visual line of sight drone aircraft, at Furie Operating Alaska’s central processing facility in Nikiski, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Drone test flight operates beyond visual line of sight between Nikiski and a Cook Inlet platform

The drone could perform deliveries to and from Cook Inlet platforms

A map of Lower Skilak Campground shows the areas that will be closed in July and August 2024. (Graphic provided by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Areas of Lower Skilak Campground to close for repair starting Monday

The East Loop will be closed — projected to be reopened at noon on Aug. 4

Kenai Courthouse is photographed on Feb. 26, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Sterling resident sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual abuse of minors

Additionally, Crane will face 15 years of supervised probation as well as sex offender registration and treatment

Shrubs grow outside of the Kenai Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Former Soldotna police officer acquitted of 2023 assault allegations

He was found not guilty following a five-day trial in late June

A parade of cars and trucks flying flags in support of former President Donald Trump proceed down the Kenai Spur Highway in Kenai, Alaska, on Sunday, July 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Residents caravan across central peninsula in support of Trump

The parade came a day after an attempted assassination of the former president

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

Most Read