Clark County School District moves toward one health plan for employees

$546 a month per teacher.

Clark County School District has long handed over that much in taxpayer money to the local teachers union, on top of paying teacher salaries.

The payments will total $122.6 million this school year, and all of it goes to the Teachers Health Trust, created and controlled by the Clark County Education Association.

The financially beleaguered trust has provided health insurance to teachers since 1983 and also deducts about $24 million in premiums from teachers’ paychecks each year.

Lately, though, the district has argued it could do better for far less.

Union leaders didn’t want to hear it. Until now.

The district had been unsuccessful in attempts to take over health coverage for teachers. Then, seven months ago, a health trust official said the provider could survive for only six to nine months without a premium increase and may then have to start liquidating its $27.7 million in investments.

More current information on the trust’s financial status has not been provided.

Teacher union officials now are agreeing to dissolve the trust and let teachers join a proposed district-wide health plan covering all 36,000 workers, according to the 2013-14 teacher contract approved by the Clark County School Board on Thursday.

Newly elected Clark County Education Association President Vikki Courtney said the decision was made to get the best coverage at the best price for 18,000 teachers and their 16,000 dependents.

“There’s a lot of money at stake for the district and taxpayers,” she said Thursday. “It needs to be spent wisely.”

Her predecessor, Ruben Murillo, resisted moving to a “for-profit carrier” in 2011.

District officials pitched the district-wide plan to union leaders as a huge cost savings.

They said it also will improve employee coverage through the negotiating power that comes with the Clark County School District being Nevada’s largest employer.

“Any insurance company would salivate to get a group that big,” said Stephen Augspurger, executive director of the union representing administrators and professional-technical employees.

The administrators union would have to give up its financially stable health trust for a district-run health plan, but it is willing to do so.

“The best price is going to come from being under the umbrella of one provider,” Augspurger said.

District employee unions and district officials must agree on a unified health plan by Oct. 11.

If the terms aren’t negotiated by then, the district and teachers union could go into arbitration.

In 2001, the Education Support Employees Association — representing bus drivers, janitors, cooks and others — refused to give up control of its struggling health trust.

When the trust finally dissolved, it left behind about $8 million in unpaid medical claims and debt. The district put those 7,304 workers and their 6,980 dependents under Sierra Healthcare, which agreed to pay off a portion of the claims.

It remains to be seen whether the Teachers Health Trust is current on its claims. Peter Alpert, former trust CEO who is still trust legal counsel, refused this week to comment on the trust’s financial standing or the proposed district-wide health plan.

New Trust CEO Michelle Spillman didn’t return calls.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at or 702-383-0279.

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