Friday, August 23, 2013

Rapert, Wren want meetings on school workers' health insurance costs

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 3:27 PM

click to enlarge SEN. JASON RAPERT
  • SEN. JASON RAPERT
REP. TOMMY WREN
  • REP. TOMMY WREN
Sen. Jason Rapert
and Rep. Tommy Wren announced today they want to do something about big health insurance rate increases facing participants in the state's plan for public school employees.

They promise special committee hearings. These won't come in time to do anything about expected big rate increases, 50 percent or more in many cases, for this school year. The increase could mean costs of an addition $500 a month for family coverage.

The state has always provided less support to teachers than to other state employees, but the teacher pool also has had greater expenses in recent years, which depleted reserves. Reserves are sufficient to offset some of the cost of insurance for other state employees.

Rapert issued a strong populist message:

“In a state where teachers are underpaid compared to other states, it’s unsustainable for them to have to absorb premium increases of up to 50 percent,” Rapert said. “It’s not right for teachers, it’s not right for support staff like cafeteria workers and maintenance personnel, and it’s not right for their families."

The news is unlikely to cost Rapert any friends among school employees heading into an election year. The solution is unlikely to be something that won't cost money even if, as Rapert says might be necessary, the system might have to be made over "from scratch." Of course, they could keep costs in check e by making state employees pay a lot more so as to reduce costs for teachers.

The full release follows:


Senator Jason Rapert of Conway and Representative Tommy Wren of Melbourne said Friday they would schedule a series of special meetings of the Senate and House Committees on Insurance and Commerce to develop a strategy for holding down the spiraling costs of teacher health insurance.

“In a state where teachers are underpaid compared to other states, it’s unsustainable for them to have to absorb premium increases of up to 50 percent,” Rapert said. “It’s not right for teachers, it’s not right for support staff like cafeteria workers and maintenance personnel, and it’s not right for their families.”

The specific dates for the meetings will be announced soon, Rapert said, adding that there is a need for urgency because many complex issues must be resolved before the 2014 legislative session.

“This problem has been getting worse for quite a few years, and now we’re at the tipping point for teachers and other school staff,” Wren said. “They’re staring at increases of $500 a month for the cost of health insurance, and they can’t wait any longer for solutions. “

Teacher health insurance premiums have been increasing steadily for the past several years, but Wednesday teachers learned that next year their health insurance rates would spike even more dramatically than usual. The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board approved rate increases of as much as 50 percent. For example, family coverage under the most popular plan will increase from $1,029 to $1,528 per month.

A factor in rising health insurance costs for teachers is that they pay a relatively large portion of their premiums. Some elected officials have proposed that the state fund a greater share of the health insurance costs. However, that remedy would take time. The legislature convenes in a fiscal session on February 10, 2014, and a funding increase would take effect at the beginning of the next fiscal year, on July 1, 2014. That would help teachers in the 2014-2015 school year, but not during the current school year.

“Something has to be done. It may be that we can adjust the current system, and it may be that we have to explore more drastic alternatives, such as dismantling the system now in place and completely starting from scratch,” Rapert said.

“Such drastic increases in health insurance are too much of a sacrifice for the families of school personnel,” Rapert said. “I honestly don’t know how they will be able to handle it, because these increases are devastating to a family budget.”

Rapert noted that the state Employee Benefits Division, which administers the teacher and the public employee health insurance programs, reports to the legislature’s Insurance and Commerce Committees.

“Costs for state employees have not risen at nearly the same rate as they have for teachers, in spite of the fact they are in the same plan and it’s administered by the same agency,” Rapert said. “I’m really frustrated by the inconsistencies between how teachers and state employees are treated, because if we don’t compensate them more equitably, Arkansas will begin losing our best teachers to other states,” Rapert said.

Rep. Wren added, “The time for talking is past. It’s time we did something.”

Tags: , , , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Mike Huckabee, meet James Madison

    Not that it will do much good, but Times columnist Ernest Dumas this week provides some useful Founding Father history, plus a little bit of Bible, for how wrong-headed Mike Huckabee, Asa Hutchinson, the Republican legislature and others are in using government to enforce their religious views.
    • May 26, 2015
  • Speaking of the Clinton Foundation: Returns in maize and beans

    A reporter for Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, sent a reporter to Africa to see where money given to the Clinton Foundation has been put to work. He found tangible results.
    • Sep 6, 2016
  • Cosmopolitan: Why were the Duggars made famous in the first place?

    A writer in Cosmopolitan wonders why it took so long for attention to the "disturbingly misogynistic" dimension of the Jim Bob Duggar family.
    • May 28, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Lessons from Standing Rock

    A Fayetteville resident joins the 'water protectors' allied against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Child welfare too often about 'punishing parents,' DCFS consultant tells legislators

    Reforms promised by the Division of Children and Family Services are "absolutely necessary," the president of DCFS's independent consultant told a legislative committee this morning. But they still may not be enough to control the state's alarming growth in foster care cases.
  • Donald Trump taps Tom Price for HHS Secretary; Medicaid and Medicare cuts could be next

    The selection of Tom Price as HHS secretary could signal that the Trump administration will dismantle the current healthcare safety net, both Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Fake economics

    Fake news is a new phenomenon in the world of politics and policy, but hokey economic scholarship has been around as long as Form 1040 and is about as reliable as the news hoaxes that enlivened the presidential campaign.

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Most Viewed

  • Bills filed to end 'fair dismissal' process for teachers in takeover districts and principals statewide

    Reps. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs) and Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle) have filed two bills aimed at rolling back the labor law that establishes due process for firing teachers and certain administrators in Arkansas.
  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Little Rock City Board to consider resolution asking legislature to repeal R.E. Lee, MLK Jr. holidays

    Also before the board: A rezoning request to build a Popeye's along Markham and a resolution to rescind a Planning Commission denial of a private wastewater treatment plant outside of city limits.
  • The baby penguin open line

    The Little Rock Zoo announced that a new baby penguin was hatched yesterday. It's the seventh chick hatched at the zoo. It's sex won't be known for a couple of weeks, the zoo said. Afterward, the zoo will hold a naming contest. Also, consider this an open line.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation