Press-Republican

October 15, 2013

No action on PCSD health-insurance

Superintendent encourages board, public to stay informed

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School Board continued its discussion on health insurance at its most recent meeting, but no action was taken on the matter.

Board member Ronald Marino told meeting attendees he felt the board was taking a healthy look at the notion of switching the district’s New York State United Teachers and Civil Service Employees Association members from Plan A to Plan B without negotiations.

He noted that City School Associate Superintendent Jay Lebrun had been working hard to gather data relevant to the topic.

It’s imperative, he said, that the public is made aware that the move is under consideration, Marino told meeting attendees. 

“It hasn’t been just sitting around.”

Last month, several board members indicated that before weighing in on whether to make a unilateral change in plans, they wished for more information on the legality and implications of such a move, as well as an analysis of how Plan B compares to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Statewide Plan.

Contracts for both Plattsburgh’s NYSUT and CSEA members state their health-insurance coverage must be at least equivalent to the statewide plan.

HIGH-COST PLANS

Information has been sought from the district’s legal council, along with Locey and Cahill LLC, consultant to the Clinton-Essex-Warren-Washington Schools Health Insurance Consortium, to which the district belongs.

“We’re going to just keep working on that, so this will be an ongoing contemplation for the board, at this point,” City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short said at the meeting.

He also passed on to meeting attendees information from a presentation given by Locey and Cahill at a recent gathering of the consortium’s Board of Directors that addressed the key mandated benefit changes initiated by the federal Affordable Care Act.

“There’re a number of additional fees, mandates, requirements and, in some cases, depending on the cost of the plan a few years from now, there may be additional taxation on our health-insurance plan,” Short said.

The legislation calls for a tax to be placed on high-cost insurance plans, which Short noted, both Plan A and Plan B are considered to be.

The act mandates that once the cost of a plan’s individual coverage exceeds $10,200 and family coverage, $27,500, an excise tax of 40 percent of each dollar over those limits be applied.

“So depending on the cost of those plans ... we could end up, in about three years, being taxed on those,” Short said.

“Plan A is most certainly going to be there sooner because Plan A is about $4,000 per family plan higher in expense than Plan B.”

‘CONSTANT EVOLUTION’

In fact, Short added, there will come a day when Plan A will be unsustainable.

“It’ll either be highly taxed at a high 40 percent tax rate or so many schools (in the consortium) will have pulled out of it, there’ll be such a small group of people covered by Plan A it won’t be able to sustain itself as a health insurance,” he said.

It has become impossible for health-insurance plans to stay stagnate in today’s world, the superintendent continued, because of the additional costs that advancements in medical procedures and prescription drugs add to the mix.

And for that reason, he said, employee health insurance is something the board will likely have to re-evaluate every few years for years to come.

“Probably the most important note to point out is that this evolution is going to be constant ... health insurance needs to stay very much in your vocabulary (and) very much in our line of understanding because of the amount of change that’s taking place,” Short said.

“Eventually, whatever plan that we have is going to trip over that threshold of 40 percent,” board member Clayton Morris added at the meeting, “so we really have to start thinking creatively in terms of how we pay our employees and how we give them benefits.”

PRESENTATION ON WEBSITE

The City School District has posted Locey and Cahill LLC’s presentation on the district website: plattscsd.org. 

It also includes information about health-insurance exchanges in the state and how Plan A and Plan B have and are projected to change in cost over the years.

Short encouraged people to review the information, which can be accessed via the Board of Education link.

“I think what people need to do is stay ‘ever the student’ of health insurance and the language of health insurance,” he said. 

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com