GUSB continues search for options for district insurance
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
The Glendive Unified School Board is going back to the drawing board in its attempt to change the health insurance offered to district teachers.
Last summer, the GUSB attempted to change the teachers’ insurance plan from a composite plan to a tiered rate plan in what board members and administrators described as a move to save the district money.
The district’s insurance representative, Melonie Beeler, has also stated that no other business she works with offers a composite rate plan because of the higher costs.
But the Glendive Education Association balked at the proposed change last year, partly over the increased premiums under the tiered rate for teachers with families for low-deductible plans.
The GEA threatened to file an Unfair Labor Practice against the district over the issue.
Now the GUSB has requested new insurance quotes from six different companies, though Beeler informed board members on the Labor Committee last Monday that one company had declined.
Once again, the drive to swap insurance plans is motivated by the costs associated with the composite plan the district currently offers as well as the spectre of rate increases, especially with the unknowns surrounding the implementation and effects of Obamacare.
Beeler told GUSB members that if they remain with their current insurance plan, they can expect an increase of 4.7 percent this year.
“The concern that I have sitting here is that there’s an increase in costs and we don’t have a big pot of money laying around and we have big needs,” said board member Jeanne Seifert. “Our pie for insurance is only so big, so how do we get the best out of that amount?”
Board members insist — and Beeler agrees — that insurance companies will not provide quotes without a company’s employees — in this case teachers – filling out what are known as health statement forms.
“The GEA needs to know that without health statements, you can’t get a quote,” Beeler said at the Labor Committee meeting.
Getting the health statement forms from teachers has proven difficult, however.
The GEA has cited concerns about teachers’ privacy as a stumbling block to filling out the forms.
The GEA did agree to encourage members to fill out the forms, with the understanding that they would not be handled by district staff in order to protect teachers’ privacy and would instead be delivered directly to Beeler.
The GUSB had requested the forms be submitted by April 1.
As of last Monday, board members said they were frustrated by the lack of response so far, as Beeler noted that very few forms had come to her.
Hoffer also said the GEA agreed that controlling insurance costs was important, and said the union would try to get its members to fill out the health statements, though cautioning that whether or not to submit the forms remained each individual teacher’s choice.
“I think we all have an understanding that insurance is an issue, and we’re going to work to get the forms filled out,” Hoffer said. “But it’s not something that you can be forced to do. It’s not mandated.”
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