Board to lower premiums for employee health insurance

Henri C. Bienvenu

Breaux Bridge – The St. Martin School Board’s finance committee took action last week that should result in a little more spending money for the majority of its 1,000 or so employees.

Committee members are recommending that premiums charged employees – as well as retirees – who are covered by the board’s group health insurance plan be lowered effective Jan. 1.

The reduction could save participants from $60 to almost $200 per year, depending on what kind of coverage they have.

Since the finance committee is made up of all board members, the full board is almost certain to approve the recommendation when it comes up at the regular December meeting.

Board CFO Emile Soulier presented the proposal during the Nov. 19 finance committee meeting, pointing out that the insurance plan is currently “very healthy” with a $4.3 million fund balance. Although $1.8 million of that amount is due to a transfer from the general fund approved by the board earlier, the balance has been accumulating because the premiums being charged have exceeded claims in recent months.

Soulier said the group health premiums are designed for the plan to break even over a period of time and he felt the board should consider adjusting premiums downward to reduce the balance.

The modest reduction was calculated to fund the reduction for about 4½ years under current conditions.

Soulier explained that the board could also choose to increase benefits rather than lower premiums, but staff felt a reduction in premiums would be a wiser choice.

Under current policy, the board pays $372 of an individual’s monthly insurance premium, with the employee paying the remainder, which varies depending on the type of coverage. Under the staff proposal, both shares would be reduced, with the board’s contribution falling to $357 per participant.

Employee Savings

A worker with employee only coverage currently pays $139 per month towards the plan’s $491 premium. Under the proposed reduction, the employee’s share would dip to $134, a savings of $60 per year.

The amount saved would be greater for an employee with family coverage, as the monthly premium would drop from $407.27 to $391, or $195 per year.

For retirees with at least 25 years of active service, the monthly premium would go from $193.59 down to $186 without Medicare, or from $119.06 to $114 per month if they are also covered by Medicare, an annual savings of either $91 or $60.

The group health insurance plan involves a great deal of money, with current operating expenses and claims paid running to almost $10 million per year.

In other business, the committee will also recommend board approval for the following projects:

•A 20’X20’ lawnmower storage building for Cecilia High School, $14,400.

•Repair of the bus canopy at CHS, damaged several years ago by a hit and run driver, $9,920.

•Material for a dugout/locker room for the St. Martinville Sr. High baseball field at Magnolia Park, $15,150, with boosters providing labor expenses.

•Bleacher repairs at the three parish high school football fields, $98,000.

•Expansion or new football dressing rooms at the three high schools, $150,000.

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