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Public School Employees Health Insurance Going Up

Health insurance rates will increase by 48 percent for a large portion of public school employees in 2014.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Health insurance rates will increase by 48 percent for a large portion of public school employees in 2014.

The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board on Tuesday voted to raise the employee contribution for all bronze, silver and gold insurance plans.

For an employee purchasing insurance for themselves on the lowest level, their monthly expense will rise from $10 to $44.84.

Becky Nabors with the Arkansas Education Association told the board teachers cannot afford the level of increase but that options are limited.

"I don't think you are at a place where you can do anything but adopt rates as they are presented to you," Nabors says. "Do I like them? No."

The insurance fund for public school employees was depleted in 2012 by a handful of "catastrophic claims" that wiped out fund assets and drained reserves to zero.

Board members say the problem is compounded by the lack of participation in the insurance pool, estimated at 30 percent of public school employees.

"Those with better plans or a spouse that works for the state or the private sector, they are already gone from the pool," Jeff Altemus with Marion School District says.

Altemus says the lasting effect from the rate increase will be a tougher sell for new teachers to enter the profession.

After the vote to increase the contribution rate for public school employees, board members reiterated the insurance plan in "underfunded" and that state lawmakers need to make adjustments to the funding matrix for health insurance contributions by the state and local school districts.

Any legislative changes will likely not occur until 2015, unless governor Mike Beebe (D), calls a special session.

Beebe has told reporters he has no plans to call a special session.
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