Teachers vote again on health insurance

Published 2:14 pm Saturday, June 1, 2013

Albert Lea School District teachers in the union Albert Lea Education Association have voted on their health insurance again — this time to stay with the district’s original insurer.

A vote late Thursday reversed the union’s decision that would allow teachers to pick between the district’s health insurer, HealthPartners, and a new insurer, Public Employee Insurance Program, or PEIP.

“Earlier this year our members were faced with significant increases in health insurance premiums,” ALEA President Al Helgerson said.

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The CEO of Alliance Benefit Group, Brad Arends, who consults for the school district, made a presentation to the school board on May 20 about the issue. The problem stems from what Arends called a bad year in 2012, in which there were 47 “catastrophic claims,” or claims that cost more than $25,000. Several of the claims were reportedly close to $500,000. Arends said the most common causes of these claims are heart attacks, strokes, cancer or premature births. A typical year would have about half the amount of large claims that were filed, and because of those claims, employee premiums are expected to jump 20 percent for 2013.

Because of the large jump, the union decided to look into other insurers earlier this year and found PEIP. Helgerson said he knows of 53 school districts that have gone to PEIP and said it’s a large insurer for public employees, which could help keep its rates more stable.

“After much research ALEA members decided to go with PEIP, which has a much, much larger pool that could help us with these ups and downs,” Helgerson said.

Helgerson said then ALEA members met with district administrators, who told the teachers they would see better results if they stayed with the district’s original insurer, HealthPartners. New changes with the Affordable Health Care Act weren’t accounted for originally when the union was looking at other insurers, Helgerson said. The union’s executive council was called together to discuss re-voting on the issue, and it was agreed to hold another vote. The ALEA vote passed Thursday night, and district administrators were made aware of the union’s choice on Friday.

“They have notified us of their intent to stay with HealthPartners,” Director of Human Resources Jim Quiram said.