110 W. New York Ave.
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School system bracing for $4.8 million rate increase
By Al Everson
posted Feb 11, 2013 - 6:47:47am
Teachers and other employees of Volusia County’s public-school system may have to pay more for their health insurance.
Rather than paying $20 per month, the employees may have to fork over $30, under a proposal being refined for action by the School Board. That $10 increase, however, must be approved by the labor unions.
“Any increase in the contribution will have to be negotiated,” said Dr. Robert Moll, the school system’s assistant superintendent for financial services.
Labor-contract negotiations between the district and the unions for the next fiscal year have not been scheduled.
The biggest expense is payroll itself, at more than $300 million for wages alone. Health insurance costs another $60 million or so a year. Wages and benefits take up about 82 percent of the general operating budget.
Higginbotham said the district’s outlay for health insurance may rise by $4.8 million for the next budget year.
The School District is the largest employer in Volusia County. More than 7,000 people are on the payroll, and approximately 11,000 people, including spouses and children of school employees, are insured through Florida Blue or Florida Health Plan.
Both insurers propose to increase their rates, while the full effects of national health-care reform — commonly known as Obamacare — remain uncertain. The bulk of the law goes into effect in 2014.
“What I think is, all the dust will settle by the time I’m back here next year,” Higginbotham said.
While employees’ deductions for their own medical insurance are quite low when compared with the payments made by employees in the private sector, higher premiums for dependent coverage may also be in the offing, perhaps increasing by as much as 9.5 percent.
Any increases in premiums, or amounts withheld from paychecks for coverage, will be subject to negotiation between the board and the unions, notably the Volusia Teachers Organization (VTO).
“We obviously recognize that anytime there’s an increase in rates, it affects a lot of people,” VTO President Andrew Spar told The Beacon. “We’ve worked with the district to try to control costs.”
Board Member Candace Lankford theorized premiums may be reduced or increases stemmed by encouraging employees to take better care of themselves.
“It’s costing us money when lifestyle choices are brought up,” she said. “It’s like the difference between renting and owning. When you’re renting, you don’t take as much care of it, because you don’t have any skin in the game.”
Wellness, as shown by eating healthful foods, exercising, and quitting smoking, Lankford added, may mean “you’re not going to pay as high a premium.”
In any case, Higginbotham said she does not know what to expect in terms of premiums in future years.
“I think the next 12 months in health care are going to be very interesting,” she said.
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