Board gets health costs update

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Al Jaeger, a senior vice president for Associated Financial Group, and Director of Employee Services Tabatha Gundrum updated the Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 16 on health care cost trends and management options going forward along with the timeline for the process this school year.

Jaeger said these conversations are taking place all around the state, but that they are much different in Dane County than they are in La Crosse and Oshkosh. He noted the District's two providers want to compete for staff members and their families to be in their respective programs and are even willing to lower their fees in order to get them.

He was happy to report MCPASD is outperforming the marketplace in the state and nationally.

He noted claims drive premiums and emphasized the biggest impact on claims is behavior-related. He was happy to report most districts are seeing a change in culture, which is also helping with costs.

They shared a timeline with a schedule of events that start next month. Gundrum reported a committee that includes a cross-section of certified and non-certified staff will look at health care. Options such as self-funding will be considered. Jaeger reported at least 30 school districts in Wisconsin will be looking at this as well.

Gundrum hopes to have up to 10 staff members, with each employee group having representation, on the committee and also encouraged Board members to participate. She said most meetings will take place on weeknights from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

She expects the committee to discuss behavior changes that might help keep costs down. She noted it isn't a rate cap year so there is no guarantee that rates will go up only 5.9 percent like a year ago, although Jaeger said he hopes any increase will be closer to 5 percent than double digits.

"We have heard from staff whatever you do please don't change our benefits,'' she said. "We know they really want what they currently have but if we have to make changes we want them to have the least amount of impact possible.''

Board president Bob Green noted most reports are predicting double-digit increases in premiums and that would be hard for the District to absorb without giving up something else.