Cassville R-4 rolls out new health insurance

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wellness screenings offer benefits for school employees

The Cassville R-4 School District has rolled out its new health insurance plans for its employees, and the new insurance is coming with some changes.

The district is no longer a member of the Southwest Missouri Educator Group, instead, joining the Missouri Educators Trust, a 70-school consortium with a 15,000-person membership.

Richard Asbill, superintendent of Cassville Schools, said the district will offer the same plans as before, but with slight changes. Under SMEG 1, the district current group until the new school year, there is an HSA 2,500 plan, a PPO 1,000 plan and a PPO 250 plan. In the new MET group, there will be the same HSA plan, a PPO 1,500 plan and PPO 1,000 plan.

By switching to the MET consortium, the district will save money, as the increase in insurance costs is only an average of 5 percent, compared to an increase of 11 percent with the SMEG renewal rate.

"This is putting us in line with the trend in school districts' insurance," Asbill said. "And, the new groups and new MET consortium will constantly be looking at providing personal responsibility and wellness for all employees."

As part of the plan to improve personal responsibility, the district is also changing how much it pays for each employee's policy. For the past two decades, the school has covered employee benefits 100 percent, also offering risk assessment screenings for those who wish to receive them.

"We have done that because it helps us recruit and retain qualified staff," Asbill said. "That's one of the benefits. While we may not have the highest base pay, we provide fully-funded benefits."

Now, the district will cover employee benefits at a 75 percent rate, but will cover the remaining 25 percent if employees choose to participate in risk assessment screenings twice per year.

"This is an incentive to get the other 25 percent paid and adds a little responsibility on others to do the health risk assessment, and we don't think that's unreasonable," Asbill said. "One employee who has been doing the health risk assessments anyway got a test in the morning, then got a call that same night because there were significant concerns about some of the blood work, and that employee said that call was a potential life-saver."

The district has been offering the free screenings for years now, and it has 230 of its 240 employees on its insurance plans. Of those 230, Asbill said about 75 routinely utilize the screenings, which are confidential and do not require any action on the part of the employee.

Asbill said the goal in the assessments is to keep employees healthy and mitigate costs of claims for health incidents that are preventable.

During some of the six staff meetings the district has hosted in regards to the new plans, Asbill said there has been some concern about tiered systems and benchmarks, but he said the district does not use such policies.

"We do not have tiered plans, and there are no benchmarks for if an employee is a smoker, diabetic, has high cholesterol, et cetera," he said. "Everyone has the same plan no matter what, and assessments are confidential between the employee and the nurse or physician."

According to Asbill, at least six schools in the MET consortium offer screenings already, another 10 plan to add them this year, and another dozen are looking at implementing them in two years. He also said spouses and children on employees' insurance plans are not subject to taking the screenings for the employees to receive the full 100 percent coverage by the district.

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