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CEO of financially embattled teachers union’s health-care trust quits

The CEO of the Clark County teachers union’s nonprofit health insurance plan has resigned amid “organizational changes” intended to address “an already challenging financial situation.”

In a brief interview with the Review-Journal on Monday, Michael Skolnik confirmed that he had submitted his resignation Sunday, effective Monday, as chief executive officer of THT Health, formerly known as the Teachers Health Trust. He directed further inquiries to his attorney.

Lawyer Allison Powers confirmed Skolnik’s departure but did not elaborate on the circumstances that led to it.

“While he had hoped to be able to continue his work to usher the trust into a new era as an innovative health plan, the circumstances do not allow it,” Powers said via email. “Mr. Skolnik wishes nothing but the best for the trust’s future and his former colleagues.”

THT Health provides health insurance coverage for around 40,000 Clark County School District teachers and other licensed professionals and their family members, according to its website. It has a history of financial and legal struggles over its management of benefits.

In recent weeks, teachers have again began raising concerns on social media that the health trust was delaying payments to their medical providers by weeks or months.

Fifth grade teacher Christian Haworth shared a letter he received recently from his therapist’s office saying the provider was in danger of going under because of delayed payments from THT Health.

The letter said it took five months or more for the provider to receive payment for services and asked patients to advocate for the insurance company “to be more diligent and lawful in their reimbursement practices to medical professionals.”

‘Incredibly frustrating’

Since sharing the letter, Haworth said he heard from other teachers in similar positions, whose bills weren’t paid or who had been dropped by their providers. He said he also reached out to a THT representative about the issue but had not received a response.

It’s “incredibly frustrating,” Haworth said, that teachers have to worry about whether they might lose their health care providers after all the unknowns of the past year.

High school social studies teacher Jamie Tadrzynski said at an April School Board meeting that some teachers were being dropped as patients by their medical offices because of insurance nonpayment issues.

Tadrzynski was dropped as a patient from dentist and eye doctor’s offices in February over insurance nonpayment. On Friday, Tadrzynski received a letter from a obstetrics and gynecology office saying the health trust hadn’t paid the medical practice, and the notice outlined the charges still owed.

“It’s disheartening because it makes us feel like we’re not worth it to the district,” Tadrzynski told the Review-Journal on Monday.

There’s also weariness among local medical providers about the health trust and that makes it hard for teachers who get dropped as a patient to find a new provider, Tadrzynski said.

“There’s just this knowledge that Teachers Health Trust isn’t paying and no-one wants to take on that liability,” Tadrzynski said.

The Review-Journal did not immediately receive responses from the school district or the health trust to a request for additional information about the situation.

The teachers union, the Clark County Education Association, did not mention Skolnik’s resignation in a statement Monday but referenced pandemic-related financial challenges: “As a nonprofit self-funded health plan, the Teachers Health Trust has incurred the rise in COVID-19 related medical expenses but maintained the same funding levels. This has contributed to an already challenging financial situation for the nonprofit.”

‘Organizational changes’ underway

The association said it is in negotiations with the school district to address the situation and “in the process of making some organizational changes that will meet today’s challenging healthcare market.”

A member update posted online April 23 on the health trust’s website says THT Health is “currently in a transition phase.”

Health care providers may see a term date while verifying benefits, it advises, but “this does not mean that your benefits will be terminated. You still have active benefits through THT Health.”

This is not the first time that the trust has found itself mired in financial or legal difficulties.

A series of changes to the trust in 2017 were meant to resolve its multimillion dollar deficit and included a $9.8 million boost in contributions from the district, plus increased costs to teachers.

Also in 2017, teachers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging a breach of contract and consumer fraud that was ultimately dismissed.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter. Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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