BEEKMANTOWN — The Beekmantown Central School Board is considering switching some retirees’ health insurance from Plan A to Plan B.
The move, which would affect the school’s retired support staff and teachers, will be part of a continuing discussion at a meeting set for 6:15 tonight in the main campus auditorium.
Some retirees have spoken out against switching to the alternative plan, which carries lower premiums but higher deductibles and co-insurance costs.
In addition, noted a press release from Beekmantown Central retirees who belong to the Champlain Valley Council of Retirees, “unlike Plan A, there is no limit or cap beyond federal law on out-of-pocket prescription costs. This will have a most devastating impact on the most vulnerable retirees.”
‘ERROR BY PROVIDER’
Along with the financial impact, the release said, “due to a more involved process and only select pharmacies being allowed to fill prescriptions, medications under Plan B will be less readily available than they are on Plan A.
“This has already been experienced when some Beekmantown retirees tried to get medications and found they had inadvertently been placed on Plan B as of January 1, 2014.”
BCSD Superintendent Daniel Mannix said the insurance provider, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, mistakenly switched all of the retired teachers and support staff to the alternative plan instead of only the active employees, who recently negotiated a move to Plan B.
“We worked hard to fix it,” said the superintendent.
Mannix added that he received word Friday that all retirees had been moved back to Plan A, and the insurance company is sending a letter of apology to all those affected.
While there are higher deductibles and co-insurance costs associated with Plan B, Mannix continued, the board is considering a health-reimbursement agreement for retirees — which would keep those costs the same as they are under Plan A.
The same provision was made for the active employees who recently switched plans.
And the board is talking about capping retirees’ prescription costs, which was not done for the active employees, he said.
Still, retired BCSD teacher Miles Moody told the Press-Republican that he is concerned a reimbursement agreement could be eliminated in the future.
In addition, retirees, some on fixed incomes, retired with the understanding that they would remain on Plan A, the Council of Retirees release noted, and now may be switched without being given a choice in the matter.
“The ethical considerations of some members of the Beekmantown School Board in switching the Beekmantown retirees to Plan B are questionable at best,” the release said.
“For decades, lower negotiated salaries were agreed upon by the retirees when they were active with the understanding that their health-insurance benefits would not be reduced when they retired.”
Mannix said the driving force behind the discussion is the future of the district, which has cut 63 positions and half of its extra-curricular offerings over the past three years.
“A lot of our education program has been eliminated, so there’s really serious concerns about the sustainability,” he said.
With the state-imposed tax-levy limit, unfunded state mandates, loss of state aid and increases in Retirement System costs, he said, all school constituents, including students, have had to make do with less.
The school is looking hard for ways to ensure the sustainability of both the district and its ability to provide benefits to its active and retired employees, Mannix said.
In December, the School Board invited retirees to a forum that provided information on the possible change in plans, where they were encouraged to provide input.
Letters mailed to the district on the topic have been distributed to board members, and Mannix said he understands many others need to be heard, as well.
“That’s why the board needs to have this discussion in public, so they get a full understanding of the political and financial aspects to the district and to the employees and the retirees,” he said.
‘NO DECISIONS YET’
Two 10-minute public-comment sessions are planned for tonight’s meeting, however, Sally Clancy, a retired BCSD teacher and Council of Retirees co-chair, feels that isn’t enough, with health insurance under discussion.
And she feared the board may vote tonight to switch retiree plans, even though that’s not on the agenda.
Mannix indicated the possible change is still very much open for discussion.
“No decisions have been made, and I’m not anticipating any decision to be made at this Board of Education meeting,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: email@example.com.