School employees continue to search for insurance solution

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - Continuing to track public school employee insurance rates in Arkansas. The group that voted to raise premiums dramatically come January 2014 admitted to messing up.

"I wanna come out on the record in front of everybody and apologize to you on behalf of EBD. We haven't done things as well as we could have the last two years," EBD Deputy Director, Doug Shackelford said to school employees in a pre-open enrollment kickoff meeting about the Affordable Care Act.

The EBD has said they could tell years ago that school employee health insurance rates might skyrocket.

Now, as legislators are working to find a short term fix and long term solution to the issue before January 1, so are school employees in Northeast Arkansas.

Governor Beebe has said if everyone gets on the same page as to how to fix school employee insurance rates, he will call a special session to keep premiums from jumping in January.

On Wednesday, superintendents met at the Northeast Arkansas Education Co-Op to make their position on the issue known.

"Once our co-op approves the position paper, we'll send it out to the other co-ops and hopefully have a statewide consensus on what we feel should be done," GCT Superintendent Jerry Noble told Region 8 News.

Noble and other, select superintendents met with Governor Beebe this week regarding the problem.

"He basically said he didn't have a cure or a fix," Noble said.

Noble told Region 8 News that Beebe said if schools and their employees pitched in, he would also help to alleviate how much employees will have to pay for premiums in January. Noble explained that Beebe offered to pay $10 million to the plan if schools paid $7 million and employees paid $8 million.

"The employee portion of this to pay for it would be for them to still pay 50 percent of what the increase was originally set," Noble said. Noble said that option would still have many employees shelling out an additional 25% for their health care plan, as opposed to seeing a 50% increase.

It still wasn't the answer Noble, or many other superintendents were looking for.

"I don't agree with that because it's not their fault that these plans have been mismanaged," he said.

Noble and other superintendents from Region 8 hope stating their position will quicken the process to finding a solution.

"I hope if we have a consensus and it's similar to what the Legislature has then the governor would call a special session and we can get this taken care of."

Nothing has been decided on at this point.

Noble says the NEA Education Co-op hopes to send out their position paper to the other co-ops very soon so they can either agree or add to the statement.

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