Press-Republican

February 27, 2014

BCSD retirees can remain on Plan A

School Board will not change health insurance

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — BEEKMANTOWN — No unilateral changes will be made to Beekmantown Central School retirees’ health insurance.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the School Board agreed not to switch the district’s retired teachers and support staff from Plan A to Plan B.

The decision came after months of discussion at public meetings, during which several retirees spoke out against the switch, while some taxpayers advocated for the cost-saving measure.

Tuesday, Board President Debbie Passno said the board and BCSD Superintendent Dan Mannix spent a lot of time exploring all health-insurance options in an effort to ensure the district’s sustainability.

One option that was considered involved switching retirees to Plan B and placing a cap on prescription-drug costs, as well as providing a health reimbursement agreement that would keep deductibles and out-of-pocket maxes the same as on Plan A.

“With the prescription cap ... I don’t think that a change would provide a great deal of negative impact, but I know that the community feels differently,” Passno said. “We’ve heard from all of you, and we have been listening.”

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

The sustainability of Plan A is a concern, she noted, and the district should be looking into offering retirees options, including: staying on Plan A; voluntarily switching to Plan B with a reimbursement agreement and prescription cap; and accepting a Medicare-supplement buyout.

Were the district to do that, Mannix noted, the Medicare-supplement buyout option would be offered annually. However, he recommended that switching to the alternative plan with the benefit of a reimbursement agreement and prescription cap be offered only for a limited time.

Those who opted to switch to Plan B would be able to change back to their previous plan if they weren’t satisfied, according to Mannix.

“I’ve always been about allowing our retirees to choose instead of us making the decision,” board member Cathy Buckley said during the session.

APPLAUSE

Board Vice President Eric Anderson said that while he was initially in favor of moving retirees to Plan B with a Reimbursement Agreement and prescription cap, “that was basically under the premise that the district needed a lot of money.”

However, he continued, thanks to Mannix finding creative ways to cut costs, BCSD’s financial outlook now seems to have improved.

Instead of making a unilateral switch, Anderson noted, he’d like to take more time to work with retirees and determine what health-insurance options would best benefit both the former employees and the district. 

“Let’s say, ‘We’re done; we’re not making the (unilateral) switch,’” Anderson said. 

His fellow board members ultimately agreed, eliciting applause from the audience.

THANKED BOARD

Passno said she hopes the BCSD community will continue to be as involved in future district matters as they have been in this one.

Late last year, the school’s active teachers and support staff negotiated a switch to Plan B with a reimbursement agreement, giving the district a window of time in which it could legally switch retiree health insurance unilaterally.

Mannix explained that, in the opinion of the district’s attorney, that opportunity ends on March 1.

“This is basically closing the window for any unilateral move,” Mannix said. “Any other moves going forward ... would just be options.”

During the public comment session following the decision, BCSD retirees and community members thanked the board for discussing the matter in public.

“I think you are the most intelligent people I’ve ever seen on a school board,” district resident Ken Mauer Sr. said. “You always open everything up.”

“Thank you for considering us,” added BCSD retiree Sydney “Sue” Garrant, who also thanked Mannix for meeting with retirees to discuss the issue.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com