Teachers may have to pay more out of pocket for health insurance in Hamilton County, and the big changes hinge on a vote from the school board Thursday.
There are three different options for the school workers, but employees don't get a choice in which one suits their needs, according to Superintendent Rick Smith. That decision rests with the school board, he said, when they meet at 5 p.m. at the Hamilton County Board of Education in a special-called meeting.
But the teacher's association president says it leaves educators in a bind.
"I think that people understand that benefit costs have risen," said Smith. "We're spending more than $50 million in health insurance."
Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, said they should think twice before acting.
"Our employees need to the options on the table and need time to check their doctors and their medications to see how this will affect their financial life," said Hughes.
Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna are the two healthcare vendors for the district, officials said. In 2015 educators would move to a different network January 1, from the provider network to the "S" network. Smith said the board will select one of three plan options, but employees can't choose for themselves. Option 1 costs a little more than $1,286 per worker; Option 2 is $312 to $426 per employee; and Option 3 is anywhere from $1,445 to $8,750 per worker.
Options 2 and 3 impact everyone with prescriptions, and the third choice has a high-deductible, said Smith. But option 1 affects the least people, he said.
"The first option deals with a third of our employees. Of that third, we feel like those that have spouses that could get coverage in other places, may choose to do so," said Smith. "And if they choose to do so, they would not be required to pay the $100." The $100 is an increased premium for spousal coverage in Option 1.
Smith said an expired teacher contract forced the board to make its own decision to save money. The HCEA and the school board won't come to the table to renegotiate a new contract until October 1. But Hughes said the HCEA objects to the insurance changes and urges board members to vote "no."
"The employees cannot afford to give any more money out of their back pocket. It's time to look for other avenues," said Hughes.
Hughes said there should be an opportunity for teacher input, but the superintendent said that's up to the board chairman to decide.
Smith said he doesn't believe all the changes will drive teachers away, but the HCEA president said she isn't so sure.
Officials said the changes follow both federal and state law standards for minimum health insurance coverage.By Briona Arradondo