OESJ officials eye new health plan

OPPENHEIM-School officials will be looking for a new health insurance plan to avoid possible increases in costs for teachers in the district, according to officials.

According to Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School Acting Superintendent Tom Gallagher, officials will form a health benefits committee to look at creating a new health insurance plan to cover employees and teachers inside the district.

According to Gallagher, currently two insurance plans are active in the district: one for employees of the former Oppenheim-Ephratah district and one for St. Johnsville’s former district.

According to Gallagher, if the district were to continue with the current plans, there could be massive increases to the premiums and costs for health insurance for the district. Gallagher said increases could eventually reach up to $324,000 over the next several years.

Currently, premiums for the O-E teachers under the family plan are $25,759 annually, which is split between the teachers and the district. However, in 2014-15, these annual premiums could rise much higher.

“One of the family plans will go up to over $29,000 as a premium, annually,” Gallagher said.

According to the St. Johnsville Blue Shield figures, the 2013-14 plan for St. Johnsville teachers has an annual family payment of $17,442. In 2014-15, this could go up to $18,436.

In December, Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Pat Michel said beginning in 2018, a 40 percent excise tax will be assessed on any insurance policy premium that exceeds roughly $27,000.

Michel said that means any health insurance premium higher than the $27,000 limit would be taxed at 40 percent. The penalty would be applied to the school district.

“As a result, both unions have agreed to form a health benefits committee to look at some ideas,” Gallagher said.

According to Gallagher, one of the programs the committee will look at will be the New York 44 health care plan. According to its website, NY44 Health Benefits Plan Trust is a unique partnership, which “benefits from having contribution rates which more closely reflect the actual health claims experience of the Trust’s covered employees as opposed to an industry-wide experience.”

Gallagher said that no steps have been taken yet, but district officials will focus on the committee.