School district employees to pay for health insurance for the first time

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – Rising health care costs have hit the Washington County School District, the county’s largest employer, and as a result, over 3,000 school district employees will have to pay for a traditional health insurance plan out of their own pockets.

This is the first time that the employees will be required to pay for health insurance, said David Stirland, Washington County School Board of Education president.

“As far as I know, (employee health insurance) has always been district-funded,” Stirland said.

While the district will also offer a high-deductible option with no premium, insurance costs have risen so much that employees wanting a conventional policy will now have to contribute part of the premium.

A large increase in the cost of health care policies to the district is triggering the change.

Rising costs were caused mostly by a 30 percent increase in employee utilization of health care over the previous year, human resources director Lyle Cox told the school board at a regular meeting Tuesday. The district only budgeted for an increase of 3 percent, Cox said.

The increased utilization by employees can be largely attributed to an increase in the cost of prescription medications.

“We’ve found that some of these prescriptions literally are costing thousands of dollars per month,” Cox said.

“They are very unique medications that individuals require and certainly that’s the purpose of health insurance; it’s just that no one anticipated the costs associated with them.”

Even some older, traditional medications are increasing at an inflationary rate, Cox said.

“It’s just the crazy way the industry is right now.”

Approximately $3 million would be required to avoid charging employees for health insurance.

The board is “saddened” by the move and is still looking for ways to fund the increase besides charging employees for insurance, Stirland said.

During discussion on the issue, several board members, including Laura Hesson, objected to the plan.

This is a huge shift in how we do things here in Washington County,” she said.

“We’re not giving the teachers a raise, but yet we’re asking them to contribute to a health care plan. It’s sort of the one thing that we do in Washington County that sets us apart from the rest of the state.”

“Health care is a big deal,” Hesson added, and asked that the committee go back and look at the issue again.

But with insurance renewal deadlines fast approaching, the board passed the measure with the caveat that the district keeps trying to find the needed $3 million “somewhere.”

The Utah Legislature is the board’s best hope for finding more funding for health care policies, Stirland said after the meeting.

Under the plan approved by the school board Tuesday, district employees will be offered two options. The first is a high-deductible policy with access to a health savings account at no cost to the employee.

The second is a more traditional policy that will cost $47 per month for an individual, $111 for two people and $158 for a family.

The district plans to revitalize the existing wellness program and try to find other ways to reduce insurance utilization, Cox said.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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13 Comments

  • comments February 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    “Even some older, traditional medications are increasing at an inflationary rate”

    It has nothing to do with inflation. Cut some of the salaries of your hugely overpaid administrators and it will easily cover these costs. It’s actually obscene what some public employees are paid.

    • Brian February 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      It has everything to do with obamacare and over-regulation. They’ve killed the open marketplace and mired everything down in a bureaucratic nightmare with the INTENT of failing so they could have single payer healthcare (ie. socialized medicine). Had hillary one it would already be on its way.

      My Dad was a teacher for 40 years, so I feel these teachers pain. But guess what: most teachers across the country are liberal (thanks the DOE and NEA) and have cheered all the regulation and taught liberal drivel and a liberal historical slant for years.

      You asked for this! (Obviously not all southern Utah teachers, but a heckuva lot of them!) Now enjoy it like the rest of us. I lost my employer healthcare like millions and millions of others have, thanks to obamacare, after have it go up 25% – 40% year after year. This year it went up almost 40% again! With nothing to show for it but a higher deductible! Now it’s higher than our mortgage.

      • comments February 15, 2017 at 4:51 pm

        You realize VA, medicaid and medicare are socialized medicine, right? Hope you never use them. That would make you a hypocrite.

      • comments February 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm

        Obamacare had very little to do with ‘socialized medicine’. In many ways it was the opposite–a mandate forcing people to buy a product from giant for-profit insurers. I’m sure hillary recieved millions from those companies and had no intention of advancing ‘socialized medicine’..

    • Henry February 15, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Think you hit the nail on the head, Bob. I looked at the website publicschoolreview.com, and compared the school district data for Washington County versus the Midwestern school district we moved here from.

      Washington County’s student-to-teacher ratio is 23:1, vs only 14:1 in our old district. More calculations show that Washington County has approximately 1,220 teachers, so the district has at least 1,780 non-teaching employees. This proportion of administrative support seems high, even compared to another school district.

      The Washington County district school board might consider reducing the number of district admin positions before they increase health care costs for all school district employees (including the teachers).

  • Jake K. February 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    This doesn’t totally bother me, though I do disagree with it. What bothers me is that the WCSD & Mr. Cox still fail to recognize the assistants or Para-Professional employees who have been with the district for 15 years only to have had both hours (from full-time to part-time) and benefits cut. Step outside of the corporate bubble and recognize your best employees with what they deserve.

    From,
    A very biased relative of a very dedicated WCSD employee

  • Puto February 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I truly hope this article is not trying to garner sympathy for school district employees possibly having to pay a portion of their health insurance. Those of us in the private sector have had our rates double, even triple in some cases. The cheapest plan I found was $1129 per month for a family of one adult and two children. With no dental or vision. This cost and plan also requires a $7800 deductible. When families are now having to figure out how to pay for health insurance that is as much as or more than their mortgage, that is a hardship being faced daily in Washington county. Only public employees are exempt from this stress. Many of us making $45K – $55K per year (which is actually considered really good pay here ) work all year, don’t get to take summer, winter, or spring vacations with our kids. So, even though we love our educators, I am sure they can figure out the concept of putting into the pot you are taking out of. It was bound to happen. Perhaps use some funds from the reduced or free lunches and breakfast program. Those parents should also legitimately qualify for food stamps, so they get more of a food budget than most Washington county families. They should be able to use some of their EBT card for brown bagging their kids lunch.

    • comments February 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Or we could use some of the massive tax giveaways our gov’t gives to banks and corporatists and buy everyone a free lunch

    • nailbender February 16, 2017 at 8:57 am

      You do realize that most if not all teachers are well under the $55,000.00 salary and most work well over 40 hours a week. Summers off are spent preparing for the next year and not to mention the hundreds of dollars spent on supplies and crafts for the school year. And don’t get me started on the social aspects of their job of raising your children into decent human beings.

  • wilbur February 15, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    “…The second is a more traditional policy that will cost $47 per month for an individual, $111 for two people and $158 for a family….”

    ..an absolute un-freakin’ believable bargain compared to what self-employed people with families are forced to pay under OCare…

    quit ‘yer whinin’ there, “educrats

  • Bender February 15, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Now the republicans are at the steering wheel I’m expecting they will have the health care crisis solved in short order. JK. We’re in for more of the same. Run up in prices had little to do with Obama Care, which was itself largely an approach championed originally by republicans. There is no simple solution.

    Consider our local health care infrastructure. Dixie Regional is undergoing a $300 million expansion which will double the facility size. Assume the original campus cost was about the same cost. That means a county with a population of 150,000 has spent $600 million just on hospital infrastructure over the span of 10 or so years. That is $4,000 for each man, woman and child. Pretend Brian has three kids. That puts his share at $20,000. This is JUST for the hospital building’s capital costs, a fraction of the overall health care costs. We spend an insane amount of money on health care. That is why insurance costs $1,000 to $2,000 month for a family of 4.

    There are some hard decisions to be made about health care and it will require informed and honest politicians doing the right thing. So, in short, we’re screwed. In the current political climate no way is anything approaching a solution going to occur. Healthcare funded by bake sale, car wash or GoFundMe for the under-insured.

  • jascurt February 15, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Why dont they go after and reform the districts new construction division. The district could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars alone just on the new Crimson High School that was just bid by taking the qualified low responsible bidders and not picking favorites. Its pretty sad when the district has only one general contractor that will bid with them because they have drove the rest off. They are also doing it with the subcontractors. The district building department is well aware of this along with the school board president and something needs to be done. With this wasteful spending all the teachers could receive raises along with their insurance left as it is.

  • ladybugavenger February 16, 2017 at 11:59 am

    How about we give congress term limits and no pension and then they can get a job in the private sector and pay for their own health insurance. Think of the money this country would save!

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