Archive for Monday, October 9, 2017

Kansas task force to study unified health insurance plan for K-12 employees

October 9, 2017

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— A new state task force has been formed to study the idea of putting all K-12 school employees in Kansas into a single, health insurance plan that would be run by the state.

That idea was first proposed in a 2016 efficiency study by the consulting firm Alvarez and Marsal, who said that putting all K-12 employees into a single, state-run high-deductible plan could save upward of $80 million a year.

But it's an idea that has met strong resistance from teachers unions and other education groups, and so far it has not gained much traction in the Legislature.

"I don’t like the idea at all," David Reber, lead negotiator for the Lawrence Education Association, said about the idea in an email. "A high-deductible plan might mean lower premiums paid, but would almost certainly also mean reduced benefits. Both of those would mean an overall reduction in the amount and quality of compensation for Kansas’ k-12 teachers. The last thing Kansas teachers need is reduced compensation."

The task force is the result of a proviso inserted into this year's budget bill, which said the group is to "study, review and develop a plan for ... implementation and administration of a unified school district employee health care benefits program."

The task force is organized within the Department of Administration. It includes two people appointed by the speaker of the House; one by the minority leader of the House; one representative of the Wichita school district, the state's largest district; a member of the State Board of Education; another person appointed by the state board; and "members representing a geographic balance of the state appointed by the secretary of administration and any additional stakeholders as deemed necessary by the secretary of administration:"

In addition to a consolidated health plan, the task force is also charged with studying the idea of consolidating certain kinds of school district purchasing such as food and technology into a single, statewide system.

John Hutchinson, chief financial and operating officer of the Olathe school district, an appointee of House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, has been named chairman of the task force. He said Monday that it's not yet clear how much savings are to be had by consolidating those programs.

"We have to gather some of the information for both of those tasks that we’ve been charged with," he said in a phone interview. "A lot of districts use cooperative purchasing already, and there are some benefits to that, so we’ll explore whether or not we can gain even more efficiency across the state on some of these other items."

Appointments to the task force were only recently completed, and the group has not yet had a formal meeting. But it is supposed to issue its report in January when lawmakers reconvene for the 2018 session.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback endorsed the idea of a unified health plan for school employees, and he put the estimated savings from such a plan into the budget proposal he submitted to the Legislature in January.

Lawmakers, however, balked at that idea, saying there wasn't enough time to implement such a plan this year, and they wanted further study of the issue.

A Legislative Post Audit report released in February said putting all K-12 employees into a single plan likely would save a considerable amount of money, but only about 60 percent of the savings would be the result of increased efficiency. The rest, the report said, would result from "shifting costs to employees."

"Having districts join a consolidated plan creates significant opportunities for savings through increased plan efficiency which would likely have little effect on employees," the report said. "However, consolidation may also result in changes to coverage levels or employee contribution rates. These changes can shift healthcare costs from the district onto its employees or vice versa."

Currently, health insurance benefit plans are negotiated between school districts and teachers. In fact, along with salaries, benefit packages are among a handful of items that Kansas law requires school districts to negotiate with teachers.

Mark Tallman, of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said that has resulted in a diversity of health plans offered among the state's 286 school districts because benefits are often the result of trade-offs in salary negotiations.

"So you can really only look at the total value of the health insurance plan if you’re also looking at salaries, and all those decisions are made locally," he said in a phone interview. "Our concern is, how would you structure a plan that respects all of the trade-offs and discussions that have gone into developing these local plans?"

The Lawrence school district operates a self-funded insurance plan, and the district pays all of the premiums of employees who work at least six hours a day, although employees have to share in the cost of adding a spouse or children to their policies.

"I believe this is the best way to provide competitive compensation packages that meet the needs of both parties to the teaching contract," Reber said.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

The conservatives and too many democrats will never deliver medical insurance written with voting taxpayers in mind.

Voters need to take over and work directly with the groups that are working for us. We the stakeholders who own the $$$$$$.

Voters should know too many on both sides of the aisle take money from the insurance industry and from health care providers. In addition to Wall Street investments.

WE voters need a special election. Leave the final decision and choices to voting consumers the folks with the $$$$$..

Three choices for maximum satisfaction :

=== ObamaCare which retains the health insurance industry for those who are happy with Obama Care after all it is their dollar. This needs stiff federal regulations that cannot be superceded by the states.

=== Single Payer Medicare for ALL = excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice on planet earth. https://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

=== Self financed health care for those able to do so.

=== ALL Disabled vets should receive Medicare with a 100% benefit so they and their families can receive medical care immediately upon discharge. Make it retroactive so all disabled vets on planet worth are covered. Reduces stress on VA centers as the VA has plenty to do with new disabled vets coming on everyday.

=== Business should not be forced to provide health insurance.

What would the new Medicare For ALL Insurance offer to americans 365 days a year,

24/7? employed or not moving on to a new job or not single mom or not struck down with cancer or not NO co-pays NO deductible

Medicare Single Payer Insurance ends deductibles and co-payments which means this coverage begins working working for the taxpaying consumer immediately.

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

What the conservatives have in mind is "under-Insurance" = a crappy deal.

Are the consultants conservative donors?

Calvin Anders 1 month, 1 week ago

The concern here is that policy makers and "conservatives" in the legislature are constructively engaged only to the extent that they want to find ways to justify huge budget cuts. They don't seem to care if educators suffer and they certainly don't seem to care about the impact to the education of our children. The idea of consolidated purchasing also seems dangerous if those building the plan are more interested in saving money (or skimming some grift) than they are in meeting the needs of students. If the state could be trusted to offer a consolidated health that actually offered reasonable coverage, they might get some buy in from teachers and voters and might still gain some efficiency in a larger scale solution and save some money in the bargain. I know it's probably too much to ask that the jackals in the legislature actually try to think win, win. Similarly with consolidated purchasing. If school districts had an option to participate at some level and the flexibility to opt out when local options made more sense there might be a way to save some money and make people happy. But forcing districts to buy food from a central distributor and squeezing funding to that program to the point that quality suffers and students suffer makes sense only to those who do not care about the welfare of our children.

Bob Summers 1 month, 1 week ago

Why do tax payers have to pay for these people? What have they done for the taxpayers?

After years of compelling, profound inculcating, the fruits of their labor are gun play in the streets and students that can't break the world wide top twenty in math, science and reading proficiencies.

Carol Bowen 1 month, 1 week ago

Creating a large insurance pool is a good idea except the state of Kansas is not a good manager of finances - Our tax structure is in bad shape, we have to increase taxes to bail out the state from its experiment, and KPERS is underfunded and overborrowed. If the leaders cannot handle basic math, how could they understand actuarial statistics? Hire someone from Florida? Like Calvin said, they are just looking for an excuse to skim off some money ... probably to support tax breaks.

Now, if the health insurance program were contracted with a reputable company, that would be worth considering. Normally, contracting does not ensure quality, but in this case, it’s better than the state insuring itself and it would be a better policy for the state, the employees, and the company. Scary thought.

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

Reasonable Coverage = Single Payer Medicare for ALL = excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice on planet earth. https://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

What is reasonable coverage?

  • Wellness

  • prescription drugs

• hospital

• surgical,

• outpatient services

• primary and preventive care

• emergency services,

• dental

• mental health

• home health

• physical therapy

• rehabilitation (including for substance abuse),

• vision care,

• hearing services including hearing aids

• chiropractic

• durable medical equipment

• palliative care

• long term care

NO DEDUCTIBLES – NO COPAYS

http://www.healthcare-now.org/docs/spreport.pdf

Bob Summers 1 month, 1 week ago

Like all congenital Liberals you want something for nothing and are clueless to the minimalist principals of sustainability. People that cannot pay their own way in life are too expensive for others to pay for.

"NO DEDUCTIBLES – NO COPAYS" would be achieved with out the parasites in society sucking the monetary life out of producing people.

You and folk like you are ALL about taking from others.

No free lunch for you.

Carol Bowen 1 month, 1 week ago

Bob, what do you suggest for insurance coverage?

Bob Summers 1 month, 1 week ago

Get rid of insurance. Insurance dictates cost of medical care. Medical care is expensive because of the numbers racket called insurance.

Medical care will come down in cost. Like paying to fix your car, people will be able to pay for care.

If one cannot afford to fix car, walk. Knowing one can not afford all costs of fixing car, car is taken better care of.

Scott Morgan 1 month, 1 week ago

California belched out 6 months ago about going to one payer system. As odd as this sounds, even Californians including Gov. Moonbeam realized the cost would be prohibitive. As always, California will wait until the other states chip in and pay.

Richard Heckler 1 month, 1 week ago

There is nothing free on the table.

How do conservatives figure that MY tax dollars paying for MY medical coverage is free? I say we have a case of conservative spin on the table.

Let voters decide on health care

The conservatives and too many Democrats will never deliver medical insurance written with voting taxpayers in mind. Voters need to take over and work directly with the groups that are working for us.

Voters should know too many on both sides of the aisle take money from the insurance industry and from health care providers. In addition to Wall Street investments.

Voters need a special election. Leave the final decision and choices to voting consumers the folks with the money.

Choices for maximum satisfaction:

▪ Obamacare, which retains the health insurance industry for those who are happy with Obamacare. After all, it is their dollar. This needs stiff federal regulations that cannot be superceded by the states.

▪ Single-payer Medicare for all is excellent coverage for those who wish to enroll. The absolute best choice.

▪ Self-financed health care for those able to do so.

▪ All disabled vets should receive Medicare with a 100-percent benefit so they and their families can receive care immediately. Make it retroactive so all vets are covered. It reduces stress on VA centers.

▪ Business should not be forced to provide health insurance.

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