District eyes savings in insurance plan

JOHNSTOWN – The Johnstown school district is hoping more of its retired employees will convert their health insurance to a Medicare supplement that could help save taxpayers hundreds of thousands.

Bryan Moldt, a representative of Capital Financial Group, addressed the Board of Education at its Thursday meeting, explaining upcoming changes to the Medicare Advantage plan his company brokers, noting the district and eligible retirees each would save money with wider use of the health plan.

“It’s actually going to help on both sides of the fence financially – not just the school district itself,” he said.

The Greater Johnstown School District has 187 retirees who receive health benefits, but Business Manager Alice Sise said only 10 use the Medicare Advantage plan, which is less costly than the two traditional PPO and two HMO plans offered by the district.

About 20 percent of the school district’s anticipated $28.2 million in spending for 2012-13 will go toward health and dental insurance, according to budget documents. Health care for retirees alone costs $2.5 million, Sise said, although it’s offset by $300,000 in retirees’ contributions.

The district could save about $250,000 next year if all eligible retirees moved to the Medicare supplement plan, Sise said. Early drafts of the 2013-14 budget indicate the need for a $146,893 tax-levy increase.

“It’s our hope that our retirees will see the value in the [plan] and garner savings for themselves and also help out the taxpayers by reducing costs,” Sise said.

In his 40-minute presentation to the board, Moldt explained benefits of the plan and distributing a handout to Board of Education members and district administrators. He declined to provide the newspaper with a copy, citing the privacy laws in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

He told the board the plan includes vision coverage, a dental allowance, a gym membership and a hearing aid allowance. Many services are covered in-full, but the plan calls for co-pays for prescriptions.

“That may be the kicker to sell it,” said board member Ron Beck, one of two retired teachers on the board.

Superintendent Robert DeLilli and Board of Education President Paul VanDenburgh said the district has the right to move all eligible retirees to the Medicare Advantage plan, although it has not made that move. Gloversville retirees over 65 were transitioned to the Medicare Advantage plan in 2009, when DeLilli was superintendent. Amsterdam retirees also use the plan, Moldt said.

“I haven’t had any retirees come to me and say this [plan] is absolutely horrible,” he said.

The school board’s next budget workshop is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at Johnstown High School.