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Janesville School District insurance options still in the air

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Frank Schultz
September 26, 2012

— Health insurance plans with added costs for hundreds of Janesville School District employees led to much discussion but no resolution among school board members Tuesday.

The Janesville School Board in the end ordered administration to check some facts but took no further action.

The administration and the district's insurance consultant have presented two insurance plans. The plans would replace the current coverage, which was negotiated in union contracts that expire June 30, 2013.

The two plans would require employees to pay more of their premiums or much higher deductibles starting July 1, 2013. Exactly how much they would pay has not been made clear.

Board members Kevin Murray and Karl Dommershausen said the plans save the district money by shifting costs to employees.

"I don't need to pay a consultant $34,000 a year to tell me that if I just get the employees to pay more, I'm going to save money," Murray said.

Murray said a steerage plan—in which employees would be required to see only providers in the Dean network or Mercy network, for example—could save money. He said a similar plan saves money for the city of Janesville.

Murray said he might be wrong about the savings, but the board won't know until it sees the numbers.

Dommershausen wanted to see four plans to give employees more choices, perhaps with higher premiums and lower deductibles or vice versa.

Consultant Bill Boyd told the board earlier that employee surveys and focus groups showed employees wanted the freedom to choose their providers and didn't want to be tied to just one provider, so the two plans allow that choice.

Murray wanted a steerage plan option but also what he called a "basic" plan that would be similar to what is offered now, in which employees could choose any provider they want.

Boyd was not at the meeting, but Superintendent Karen Schulte said her understanding was that Dean and Mercy had told Boyd they would not provide a steerage plan unless that plan would cover all employees.

Board members Kristin Hesselbacher and Peter Severson indicated they, too, would like to see cost comparisons of various types of insurance options.

Severson suggested the district look into joining the county and/or city of Janesville plans, which might be more attractive to Dean or Mercy.

Board member Scott Feldt said all these requests would overtax the administration and keep it from doing its job in a timely fashion.

Schulte has said she wants the question of health insurance to be wrapped up by Nov. 27 so administrators' 2012-13 contracts can be prepared with the new information by January.

The board directed Schulte to clarify whether Dean and/or Mercy would cover just some employees with a steerage plan.

Sodemann also asked that Schulte get costs for various plan options, with each plan representing about the same amount of savings to the district.



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