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: , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

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

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Death Row inmates argue to keep stay of execution in place; urge 8th Circuit not to 'rush' analysis

    Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • Federal judge denies execution stay for Don Davis but larger stay continues

    Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • Donald Trump threatens to shut down his own government if he doesn't get taxpayer funding for wall

    Friday looms as the deadline for Congress to pass a spending bill; if they fail to do so by midnight, the government will shut down. D.C. observers seem to think that the most likely scenario is a stopgap bill to fund the government for another week or so while lawmakers try to work out a deal. We'll see.
  • The Jack Jones, Marcel Williams execution thread

    The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52,  and Marcell Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30.
  • Walmart slapped with $12 million in damages over misappropriating trade secrets

    An Arkansas jury last Friday awarded Cuker Interactive, a California-based digital marketing agency, more than $12 million in damages  from Walmart. The jury found that Walmart had misappropriated trade secrets. In addition, the jury awarded Cuker $30,600 in damages for breach of contract and $400,000 for unjust enrichment.
  • Huckabee seeks laughter

    Ha Ha Huckabee.
  • Lee's lawyer writes about executed man's last hours

    Lee Short, the lawyer for Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas put to death just before midnight last night, posted on Facebook the following letter of thanks for personal support and a bit about Lee's last hours, distributing his possessions and talking to family.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation