Premiums Rise, Benefits Cut for Most AR Public School Employees

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board approved 2015 premium and benefit rates Tuesday for more than 42,000 public school employees.

The board approved rates that will increase premiums by 30-percent for an estimated 7,000 public school employees.

Rates for another 15,641 will go from $11 to $45 per pay period, a 309% increase.

Angela Avery is a teacher in the Camden-Fairview School District and serves as a board member.

"It's liveable, it's doable," Avery says. "I came in trying to be their voice, trying to give them something they could live with and I feel like that's what we've done."

Premiums on the most expensive plan, once called "gold" now named "premium" will actually go down in 2015, but now come with a $1000 deductible and fewer benefits.

The board declined to add a $5 monthly surcharge to all non-Medicare eligible adults in the plan that would have provided $3.1 million to help replenish the plan's catastrophic fund.

Employee Benefits Division director Bob Alexander says the board could have moved to a "risk-adjusted" plan that would insulate the insurance plan from teachers "migrating" from a high-cost to a more economical option.

"I do believe that kicking the can down the road is not a good idea because that's what we blame the legislature for doing and now the board has done the same thing," Alexander says.

Jeff Altemus, superintendent for Marion Schools, says teachers couldn't afford to pay more this year.

"That's a tremendous rate increase (30%) for employees and I'm not happy about that and certainly couldn't support any more of a rate increase for that," Altemus says.  "I think we kicked the can further down the road today.  We're dealing with a plan that is chronically underfunded."

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