Facing a half million-dollar employee health insurance premium increase from the state, Brick school officials are poised to privately purchase health insurance for the district’s employees in a move that would save $958,000.
The school district, along with others statewide, was recently notified that its premiums under the state-managed health insurance plan for school employees would rise about 12 percent next year, board member Larry Reid said. That prompted officials to look into other options, including purchasing insurance on the private market instead of through the state plan, to which the district switched in 2010.
“The rate increase the state announced for both of those programs was quite substantial,” said Scott Davenport of Conner Strong, the district’s insurance broker, of individual and family health plans. The “vast majority” of the Brick district’s employees choose a Horizon Blue Cross-Blue Shield program known as Direct 10, one of the most expensive options under the state program, that features $10 co-payments, which led to the district facing a higher-than-normal premium hike this year.
The Conner Strong representative said the district received good proposals on the private market from two providers, Aetna and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, and ultimately recommended the district sign on with Horizon so employees could stick with the provider that most of them currently have and minimize trouble during the switch.
“All the information we read, what’s happening right now, we anticipated,” said Tim Puglisi, head of the Brick Township Education Association, the union which represents the district’s teachers.
Many employees were unhappy with the switch to the state plan in 2010, which occurred under a previous school board majority. At the time, many employees spoke at a public meeting and expressed worry over rising premiums.
“I think this is a very positive thing for the district, for my members,” said Puglisi, of switching back to Horizon.
Horizon representatives at a school board meeting last week said the transfer should be relatively seamless for employees, and much easier than when the state took over from Horizon. Company staffers said the membership roster could be transferred electronically and, with proper time to prepare, be easy for employees and retirees.
Horizon also agreed to waive a penalty the district would have otherwise had to pay following their split with the company in 2010.
In order to make the switch, the Board of Education would have to vote in favor of leaving the state plan by Nov. 1, in accordance with state law. The board is expected to take up the issue and hold a vote at its next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 23.
If the Horizon switch were to take place, both taxpayers and employees would enjoy the savings, district officials said.
“I don’t see any of my members having a problem going back to Horizon, and the coverage is going to be equal,” Puglisi said.