School Employees Facing Steep Increases in Health Insurance Costs, Further Eroding Pay
FlaglerLive | April 7, 2011
Flagler County’s largest employer—with 1,337 employees—is sticking with United Health Care as its insurance provider for next year. The Flagler County School Board Tuesday evening unanimously approved the plan.
Despite increasing the district’s share of the cost by $300,000–a 5 percent increase over last year–most employees will see steep increases in premium costs, depending on their deductible and plan choice. Employees in two popular health plans will see premium increases ranging between 10 percent and 36 percent. Monthly premium increases in those two plans (United Health Care’s “Choice” and “Choice Plus”) are rising by $20 a month and $49 a month for single employees, respectively, and by $82 a month and $135 a month for family coverage. (See the chart below for a comparison of this year’s plans with next year’s plans.)
The overwhelming number of participants in the health plan—1,075 out of the 1,337 who seek coverage, or 80 percent—cover themselves only. Premiums rise in smaller proportions for employees seeking couple and family coverage, but in actual dollars, family and couples coverage will increase more dramatically for most.
The premium increases, a reflection of still-rising health care costs across the country, equate to a pay cut for most employees who stick with the same coverage they have this year. It would be the first of at least one more expected significant pay cut by next year, as the Legislature edges closer to enacting a law that would require all public employees, including public school employees, to contribute 3 percent of their pay to the Florida Retirement System. The retirement system is one of the most solvent in the nation, but the state is facing a budget deficit of close to $4 billion.
The Flagler school board’s contribution for all health plans—whether for individuals, couples or families—is rising from $385 a month to $405 a month (not dental or vision, where the board contribution remains flat). Beyond those costs, premiums are the responsibility of employees.
The decrease in premiums will affect those in just one of the health savings account plans being offered, which are cheaper up-front, but costlier when the individual falls ill. Those plans favor younger, healthier people. The current premium for an individual in a health savings account plan is $484 a month. That’ll fall to $440. Subtracting the district’s contribution, that works out to a monthly premium of $36 next year, compared to $98 a month this year.
It’s double those amounts for an employee and spouse, and currently $1,248 for family coverage, falling to $1,135 a month next year, or $731 a month when the district’s contribution is included. But those plans, which have a $1,250 deductible (and $2,500 for families), also require the patient to pay 20 percent in co-insurance for most services, including emergency room visits and doctor office visits. Most employees do not sign up for Health Savings Account-type plans because of the risks of being faced with insurmountable health bills.
As required by the new health-care reform law, lifetime maximum benefits have been lifted on all plans. They had been capped at $5 million.
United Health Care’s “choice plus” plan has lower in-network deductibles, but higher premiums. The deductible is currently $500 for an individual, $1,000 for a family (and double that for out-of-network services). The employee’s share of premiums this year is $134 a month, after the district’s contribution. That’s going up 37 percent to $184 a month next year. For those who seek family coverage, premiums will rise from $978 a month to $1,113 a month. (Few people are generally aware that school employees pay premiums that steep, in spite of district contributions.) Under that plan, patients have some co-pays of $20 to $150 on some services, ER co-pay is $150).
A less expensive “choice” plan is also available to employees, but with higher deductibles of $1,500 for individuals or $3,000 for families. Under that plan, premiums would rise from the current, single monthly premium rate of $89 to a monthly premium of $109, a 23 percent increase. Family plans’ premiums would rise from $838 to $920 a month, a 10 percent increase. Again, that’s after taking the district’s contribution into account.
Tuesday’s board vote was the culmination of a nearly three-month-long process that entailed long employee committee debates over what plan to adopt. United Health Care was in contention with Florida Health Care, which had been the district’s insurer until last year. Rising costs compelled the switch. Florida Health Care is a subsidiary of Blue Cross-Blue Shield, which some employees favored because it would have given them more flexibility. On the other hand, United Health Care’s costs were less steep.
Flagler County School Board Employees' Health Insurance Plans Compared:
2011 and 2012
|Type of Plan||Beneficiaries||Monthly Premium Cost to Employee This Year (2010-11)||Monthly Premium Cost to Employee Next Year (2011-2012)||$Monthly increase/decrease (% Difference)|
|Employee only||$88.81||$108.88||+$20.07 (+22.6%)|
|Employee & spouse||$624.53||$689.05||+$64.52 (+10.33%)|
|Employee & child(ren)||$572.38||$632.57||+$39.81 (+10.5%)|
|Family plan||$837.88||$920.10||+$82.22 (+9.8%)|
|Employee only||$134.34||$183.73||+$49.39 (+36.8%)|
|Employee & spouse||$740.46||$848.49||+$108.43 (+14.6%)|
|Employee & child(ren)||$682.33||$783.78||+$101.45 (+14.9%)|
|Family plan||$978.30||$1,113.22||+$134.92 (+13.8%)|
|Health Savings Account, higher deductible|
|Employee only||$0||$0||No change|
|Employee & spouse||$312.93||$411.85||+$98.92 (+31.6%)|
|Employee & child(ren)||$312.93||$369.67||+$56.74 (+18.1%)|
|Family plan||$466.91||$584.30||+$117.39 (+25.1%)|
|Health Savings Account, lower deductible|
|Employee only||$98.44||$35.74||-$62.7 (-63.7%)|
|Employee & spouse||$645.05||$533.27||-$111.78 (-17.3%)|
|Employee & child(ren)||$591.85||$484.85||-$107 (-18.1%)|
|Family plan||$862.74||$731.41||-$131.33 (-15.22%)|
|Employee & spouse||n.a.||$376.65||n.a.|
|Employee & child(ren)||n.a.||$336.31||n.a.|
|Employee & spouse||$4.98||$4.98||none|
|Employee & child(ren)||$6.56||$6.56||none|
|Dental Plan, PPO|
|Employee and 1 dependent||$33.11||$33.11||none|
|Dental Plan, Co-pay|
|Employee and 1 dependent||$14.90||$14.90||none|