Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter



CAT Tracks for April 18, 2005
HEALTH INSURANCE WOES

Hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but...


Let’s start with the easiest news first...the previously advertised informational meetings concerning the possible health insurance co-op scheduled for Monday in Trico and Tuesday in Jonesboro have been canceled. They will be rescheduled.

Why, you might ask? It seems that BlueCross BlueShield has decided to play hard ball with the prospective insurance co-ops. Both groups had pretty much decided that since most of the prospective member schools were covered by BCBS and most had expressed satisfaction with the service received, that the co-op would negotiate to use the BCBS network. BCBS pulled the plug on THAT plan last week, telling us “Thanks, but no thanks”...end of negotiations. Their “party line” is that they do not service such groups...although our representative gave them several examples of how they actually do...up north. They were not impressed.

BUT...that does NOT mean that the co-op is dead. Far from it! Plans are going forward to use another insurance network...Healthlink...which is offering more benefits for the same price. However, it was felt that due to the late shift in a possible carrier that it would be best to make sure that “all the ducks were in a row” PRIOR to a general informational meeting.

So...stay tuned!


Now...for the really bad news. The District received the new rates for BCBS - to be deducted in April for coverage beginning in May. The overall increase is 12.12%, which is not too out of line for health insurance increases. BUT - upon further review - BCBS decided to single out different tiers for different rate changes. THIS has never happened in the past...and there was no explanation as to why it was done this time. For example, the single premium was to increase by approximately 6%, while the family plan was to increase by approximately 33%...a whopping $350 more per month...for a grand total of $1,423.23!

Knowing how devastating this would be to members having such coverage, the District insurance committee sought relief. They have been on the phone and have met with insurance broker, Kenny Johnson. Other plans have been considered...but it is too late to have them in place prior to the new insurance rate deadline of May 1st. Mr. Johnson was able to get BCBS to make a minor adjustment in single premium rates...an extra $10 per month...to bring down the family rate by $100 - now ONLY a $250 per month increase. The insurance committee struggled with this decision, did notwant to do it, but felt that it was the right thing to do. Hopefully, all will agree. (If BCBS had done the usual “across-the-board” rate increase, the single premium would have gone up by $56 per month. After the “adjustment”, the single premium is going up by $36 per month.)

And it gets worse! In trying to find a way out of this mess, it was impossible to set the rates in time for the April 15th pay check. So...a one-time “double premium” will have to be held out of the April 29th pay check. Yes...that (reduced) $250 INCREASE for the family plan will come out of that one check. If you have the "Employee Only" coverage, you will see an additional $36 held out of the April 29th check...an additional $18 each check thereafter. If you have the "Employee & Spouse" coverage, it is almost as bad as the family coverage...an additional $232 held out of the April 29th check...and additional $116 thereafter. If you are one of the two "Employee & Child(ren)"...you will not believe your good fortune...$28 LESS held out of your April 29th check...$14 less each check thereafter!


HOWEVER...IF we can hang on...there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Do NOT expect a miracle. As you are surely aware, affordable health insurance is not just a Cairo problem...it is nationwide. BUT...at least some relief may be in the near future. Kenny Johnson is coming back to Cairo on Monday, April 25th (in the CJSHS Cafeteria at 3:45 p.m.) to make a presentation for a possible new insurance carrier to replace BCBS. The carrier is Principal, which uses the Healthlink network. Their rates are significantly lower than the new BCBS rates. In fact, the $440.48 single rate is less than the old BCBS rate of $466.39...and less than the BOE pays under the Contract! Principal’s family rate is $1,134.88 compared to the new BCBS rate of $1323.23. (On the attached chart, it shows $1423.23, but that was before the $100 deduction mentioned earlier.)

Is this the way to go? THAT is the question of the week! It would be very helpful if you would go online and determine if your doctor(s), hospitals, etc. are on the Healthlink system. (www.healthlink.com) Cheaper coverage is not always better. Many of us were VERY concerned when we switched from Golden Rule to BCBS - Golden Rule had been very, very good to many, many employees and their families. Fortunately, most have expressed satisfaction with the switch. Will a new switch prove to be a “good thing”? Only time will tell, but if you have already had some experience with Healthlink...share your impressions!


The chart mentioned above follows: