Support staffers in the Clark County School District are lamenting an increase in health insurance costs, saying that higher out-of-pocket costs will leave them financially strapped.
The new insurance coverage through UnitedHealthcare’s Health Plan of Nevada, which takes effect in September and also covers school police officers, features three plans instead of the five that were previously offered.
Depending on the plan, some employees may now pay higher deductibles or premiums, which are deducted from 20 paychecks throughout the year.
Changes include a $1,000 annual deductible per employee for the cheapest plan, which previously did not have any deductible.
“I can’t afford it,” said Georgina Parra-Ureno, a student program placement processor who will see her contribution jump from $280.40 per paycheck to $420 to cover herself and her family. “I’m going to have to drop insurance completely. The only one that’s going to be insured is my husband through Medicare, because he’s legally disabled.”
District CFO Jason Goudie said the rising premiums are the result of increasing medical costs across the board.
In 2017-18, the total health care cost for support staff and police in the district’s budget was $92 million. This school year, rates have gone up about 4.6 percent, for a total of almost $97 million, according to the district.
“Medical costs is a huge component of our expenditures as it relates to employee benefits, and it’s a challenge in the United States as it relates to the cost and the increases,” he said.
The reduction from five to three plans helped lower the overall cost, Goudie said.
Another factor is the unresolved support staff contract, which was sent to arbitration. The contract ran through June 30, 2017.
As a result of the ongoing dispute, the district’s monthly health-care contribution of $576.65 per employee has remained the same for the coming year — meaning employees are absorbing the cost increases.
Employees contributed about $15.5 million of the $92 million in costs last year. They will contribute about $21 million of the total this year.
The district’s portion will remain at $76.5 million.
Employee costs could be reduced, however, if an arbitrator rules that the district should increase its contribution.
The district has claimed that it simply does not have the money to pay for increased health benefits.
If the district gets an unfavorable arbitration ruling, Goudie said, more budget cuts will ensue.
“We’re well aware of the fact of how much it impacts our support staff, which is why we did spend a lot of time working with (the Education Support Employee Association) trying to come up with the best solution to kind of minimize that impact,” Goudie said.
But in a statement, the association’s president said the union does not support the increases and that they did not result from negotiations with the district.
“These healthcare increases point out how sick education funding is in Nevada and the urgency in addressing this problem,” read the statement from President Virginia Mills. “ESEA demands the district find the means to support education support professionals so they can concentrate on what matters most, Nevada’s students.”
UnitedHealthcare did not return a request for comment.
Meanwhile, support staff are feeling the crunch.
Arturo Acosta, who trains special education aides, has a fiancee expecting a baby and anticipates spending a lot of money. He plans to add his fiancee and future child to the cheapest plan for $140 per paycheck.
His previous plan didn’t have the $1,000 deductible.
“It’s definitely going to be a hard thing to get through,” he said. “I mean, going to pediatricians, you know, every couple of months, sometimes twice. It’s going to definitely stack up on top of our normal doctor visits.”
The district saved at least $100,000 by having American Fidelity conduct an audit to verify employees dependents free of charge, district CFO Jason Goudie said.
In exchange, the company was able to provide information to employees about its products, such as life or disability insurance, he said.