Jonesboro rep. named to teacher insurance task force - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Jonesboro rep. named to teacher insurance task force

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Some temporary fixes went into effect this week to limit rising health insurance premiums for thousands of public school teachers.

Lawmakers passed this legislation during a three-day special session, which was called to reduce insurance rate hikes of up to 50 percent for teachers.

In addition to temporarily using $43 million of surplus funds to offset a spike in insurance premiums next year, the measures also called for creating a new 14-member task force to look into overhauling the teacher health insurance program.

The speaker of the Arkansas House has already named four lawmakers to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force, which will also include state insurance officials and teachers.

On Monday House Speaker Davy Carter appointed Republican Reps. Bill Gossage of Ozark and Allen Kerr of Little Rock as well as Democratic Reps. George McGill of Fort Smith and Harold Copenhaver of Jonesboro.

Copenhaver, who works in commercial insurance, says he feels fortunate to serve on this task force so that he can help craft some long-term fixes.

"I've been very much involved in this process all along," Copenhaver said after speaking at the Out of the Dark Leave Your Mark Rally in downtown Jonesboro on Tuesday. "We look forward to taking a consideration and looking at all avenues for participation, so teachers will be able to participate. That's what we want in the long run for their families and make it affordable."

He said the 14 people on the task force will look at all options, but to him success means erasing all the worry that teachers have recently felt about their financial futures.

"[The teachers] are the basis of our future for our children," Copenhaver said. "We have to build upon education, and, as we continue to grow, our education status in the state compared to other states in the country, we must take this off the teachers."

What he would also like to promise to the teachers is that he and the other lawmakers will put aside differences and work together on their behalf.

"We will take care of them one way or the other," he said about the teachers, "and find the best solution for them."

The task force will meet for the first time in the next 30 days. The members have until June 2014 to present their first report with some preliminary recommendations and findings.

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