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EDITORIAL: Time to replace THT Health

It’s not just teachers who should be concerned about the financial mismanagement of THT Health, previously known as the Teachers Health Trust.

This month, the Review-Journal’s Aleksandra Appleton revealed the depths of the organization’s financial woes. In February, THT Health had a $43 million deficit, according to notes from a February meeting. The cash crunch forced it to withhold or delay payment on teachers’ medical bills.

As it turns out, doctors prefer to be paid for their services. Medical providers started reacting exactly as you’d expect, and teachers felt the effects. Some doctors’ offices wouldn’t accept THT Health as insurance and required prepayment for services. This is unacceptable for teachers — and the taxpayers who annually send tens of millions of dollars to this failing organization.

The situation was so dire that the Clark County School District agreed to front it $35 million to help it pay outstanding bills. In exchange, THT Health agreed to provide more access to its finances. It also chose a new administrator. Starting Sept. 1, educators will choose between two PPO plans.

The Clark County Education Association, which oversees THT Health, is full of excuses for the group’s financial problems. Those include increased costs from the coronavirus pandemic, an aging population and the program’s former leaders.

To someone who just moved to Nevada, that might sound convincing. It won’t to anyone who followed the Teachers Health Trust over the past decade.

In 2013, John Vellardita, who was then and remains CCEA’s executive director, said the trust was rapidly losing money and would be “belly up in 60 to 90 days.” That disaster was avoided, but the predicament signaled structural problems with the plan. As the Review-Journal reported at the time, the Nevada Division of Insurance would have intervened if the trust had been a private insurance company.

In 2015, THT was once again running out money and told teachers they would need to pay substantially more out of pocket. The district also committed almost $10 million more to THT.

In 2017, the district filed a complaint alleging the union withheld information about THT. Teachers again complained their medical bills weren’t being paid. THT was sued by teachers and former THT employees alleging it committed illegal practices. In 2018, it was sued by its former claims processor.

It’s apparent that a name change didn’t fix the underlying problems plaguing THT Health.

The mismanagement of teachers’ health care has gone on long enough. It’s time to replace THT Health with a health plan that can pay its bills.

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