JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Some temporary fixes went into effectthis week to limit rising health insurance premiums for thousands of publicschool teachers.
Lawmakers passed this legislation during a three-day specialsession, which was called to reduce insurance rate hikes of up to 50 percentfor teachers.
In addition to temporarily using $43 million of surplusfunds to offset a spike in insurance premiums next year, the measures also calledfor creating a new 14-member task force to look into overhauling the teacherhealth insurance program.
The speaker of the Arkansas House has already named fourlawmakers to the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance ProgramLegislative Task Force, which will also include state insurance officials andteachers.
On Monday House Speaker Davy Carter appointed RepublicanReps. Bill Gossage of Ozark and Allen Kerr of Little Rock as well as DemocraticReps. George McGill of Fort Smith and Harold Copenhaver of Jonesboro.
Copenhaver, who works in commercial insurance, says he feelsfortunate to serve on this task force so that he can help craft some long-termfixes.
"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 indowntown Jonesboro on Tuesday. "We look forward to taking a consideration andlooking at all avenues for participation, so teachers will be able toparticipate. That's what we want in the long run for their families and make itaffordable."
He said the 14 people on the task force will look at alloptions, but to him success means erasing all the worry that teachers haverecently felt about their financial futures.
"[The teachers] are the basis of our future for ourchildren," Copenhaver said. "We have to build upon education, and, as wecontinue to grow, our education status in the state compared to other states inthe country, we must take this off the teachers."
What he would also like to promise to the teachers is thathe and the other lawmakers will put aside differences and work together ontheir behalf.
"We will take care of them one way or the other," he saidabout the teachers, "and find the best solution for them."
The task force will meet for the first time in the next 30days. The members have until June 2014 to present their first report with somepreliminary recommendations and findings.