Insurance changes face vote by Janesville School Board

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Frank Schultz
Monday, May 13, 2013

— The Janesville School Board is poised to approve a key cost-savings measure that affects the hundreds of school district employees who gets health insurance through the district.

The long-awaited overhaul of the district's health insurance plan is set for approval at the board's meeting Tuesday.

The changes include increases in the employees' share of the insurance premium payments.

The health plans call for employees to pay 8 percent to 10 percent of the premium costs, a big jump from the 3 percent most employees pay currently.

The changes mark a turning point for the Janesville School District, one that most school districts and municipalities dealt with months ago.

Wisconsin Act 10 removed health insurance, along with most other employee benefits, from the list of items that employees could bargain with their public-sector employers.

Janesville School District unionized employees were protected from any changes until now because they had contracts in place when Act 10 became law. Those contracts run out June 30.

Officials have not said how much money they expect to save, but teachers union President Dave Parr told The Gazette earlier this spring that he was told the more cost-effective health plans and the additional premium payments could save the district $5 million to $6 million annually.

The proposal is to offer two plans from which employees would choose. One is a Mercy Health System exclusive provider organization. The other is a preferred provider organization through the Alliance, a consortium of employers in the area.

The Mercy plan has slightly lower premiums and lower deductibles and co-pays than the Alliance plan.

An advantage of the Alliance plan is that it covers out-of-network treatment, while the Mercy plan covers out-of-network costs only in emergencies.

The annual premium for single coverage under the Alliance plan is $463. An employee with a spouse would pay $1,064. An employee with a child costs $884, and family coverage is $1,426.

Those premiums include dental and drug coverage.

Employees now pay $5 for generic drugs and $15 or $30 for more costly drugs. The district had proposed a $20-$40-$60 structure.

The administration apparently listened to employees who said the proposed cost was too high for lower-paid workers. The drug co-pays now are listed at $10, $30 and $60.

Employees who retired under the district's early-retirement program or who retire by June 30 will continue as they are now, without any premium payments. Early-retirement health insurance typically covers employees until they are eligible for Medicare.

Employees who early-retire after June 30 will have to pay the premiums.

If the board approves the plans Tuesday, they would go into effect in September.

Last updated: 10:36 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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