UP IN ARMS— Jim Shreve, Systems Admin for NPS and Union President, addresses the school board during the public comment period at the regular school board meeting last Tuesday, August 14.

Nome Public Schools health insurance premiums skyrocket

Employees of Nome Public Schools are getting a rate increase this school year that will put their health insurance premiums at more than double their current price. The rate hike comes after the number of claims by district employees was more than their insurance company planned for, putting the district into a “high risk” category.
A new proposal for health insurance premiums was sent to district employees earlier this month, and the majority of staff members were briefed on the changes at Monday’s in-service.
Jim Shreve, Systems Administrator for NPS and Union President of Education Support Professionals, called for a classified employee meeting last Thursday, August 9, to inform all non-contract staff of the changes.
In an interview with the Nome Nugget, he gave some background on the district’s health insurance plan as well as details on the new premiums.
In 2017, NPS moved from a traditional group insurance plan to a self-insured plan with Meritain Health, a company of Aetna. In a self-insured or “self-funded” health insurance model, the employer funds the health insurance needs of their employees, which, in theory, can give the employer better savings, more financial control and greater flexibility.
“At that time the deductibles were good, better than what we had been experiencing with the previous insurance,” Shreve told the Nome Nugget. But after claims were higher than what the insurance company had planned for, the district was put into a higher risk level that more than doubled their premiums.
In the current self-funded model, the school district pays 85 percent of the premium cost and the employee is responsible for the remaining 15 percent. According to Shreve, the rate increase falls at about 108 percent more than last year’s rate.
For an example, he said a normal monthly premium for an employee with a family (spouse and kids) used to be around $385. Now, that premium is expected to fall around $801 per month.
As for switching plans, it’s too late in the insurance year to make any changes and while the district has been exploring other options, Shreve said the companies they’ve reached out to wouldn’t even give the district a rate quote.
Employees with other options, such as a secondary insurance provider or a spouse’s insurance, may choose to opt-out of the district’s plan. But for everyone else, paying a high price is the only option available right now.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112


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