St. Lawrence County School Districts May Return to Health Consortium education

MASSENA — Some school districts that have left the St. Lawrence-Lewis Health Insurance Consortium are considering returning to the plan, according to Patrick H. Brady, superintendent of Massena Central School.

Mr Brady, the district’s representative on the consortium, briefed the Massena school board on Thursday evening about the plan. He said the plan’s directors last met in May.

He said Locey & Cahill LLC, the consultant for the plan, is working on revisions to the entry and exit procedures for plan participants.

“That would become part of our collaborative agreement that holds this plan together with the school districts, and then that would come to you as the individual boards,” Brady said.

The school districts of Canton, Edwards-Knox, Ogdensburg, Madrid-Waddington, Heuvelton and Morristown had withdrawn from the plan. Morristown submitted its notification by April 30, 2021, allowing it to exit the plan by July 1, 2022.

This leaves 12 participating districts and the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services in the consortium.

“We’ve seen some schools leave the plan, but now you’re starting to see some of those schools thinking about going back to the plan. So let’s look at what the conditions for going back into the plan are? What are the conditions if you want to exit the plan?” Mr Brady said.

The plan includes employee compensation and medical insurance.

Workers’ compensation, Mr Brady said, “shows that the first nine months of the plan were about 16.6% below budgeted levels.”

“We’re still seeing the impact of COVID where you had fewer entitlements when not all people were working in the schools,” he said. “We now have a healthy net income of $254,378,” so the comp plan is “doing pretty well.”

The health insurance plan is under budget this year.

“This is mainly due to a number of factors. We let Morristown leave the plan. We’ve had a drop in enrollments over the past 18 months as well as the slow transition of some counties to the lower premium riders. We’re about 12% under budget on the spending side related to paid medical services and about 3% under budget on drug spending,” Brady said. “Part of that is really the ongoing impact of the pandemic as people haven’t sought as many medical services unless they’ve had COVID. And if you’ve been in the hospital, you’re probably on the Medicare side of COVID, which wouldn’t have impacted that plan as much as Medicare did.”

He said Locey and Cahill have issued a call for proposals for a Medicare Advantage plan. The request was sent to six insurance companies and four responded.

“Right now, Locey and Cahill, our administrator, are reviewing this information. They are expected to come to the next meeting with some recommendations to the board to consider a Medicare Advantage plan as part of our Excellus plan. We should see that analysis next time,” said Mr. Brady.

Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield assumed health insurance administration for the plan effective January 1, 2020. This role was performed by staff from the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services who have worked in BOCES’ administrative offices for more than 30 years.

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