The RE-1 Valley School Board is seeking staff input on health insurance options for next year. At a special meeting Monday, the first of three scheduled for this week, the board heard presentations from four different health insurance providers/brokers – Gordon Insurance, CEBT, Colorado Public Education Health Plan and Sage Benefits.
RE-1 has previously used Cindy Pilkington, of Pilkington Financial, as its health insurance broker but she announced earlier this year that she would be retiring from the large group segment, which includes RE-1. She has recommended the board hire Tim Hebert, managing partner at Sage Benefits, who Pilkington is transitioning her large groups in the Front Range to.
Sage Benefits is a health insurance and employee benefits agency, they work with school districts as well as other entities. In addition to his work with the agency, Hebert, who brings 23 years of experience, has also been the state legislative chair for the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters since 2016 and is on the Producer Advisor Board for Connect Health and the Colorado Division of Insurance.
“You’re at a great starting spot, you’re looking at a zero percent increase, we’re at zero that helps the budget, that’s virtually impossible to find right now but that’s where we’re starting,” Hebert told the board , adding that they can work with employees to look at possible changes they can make to the plan design that might help them more.
He noted the current plan with Cigna is running fairly well, as of the end of March the district had a surplus of around $124,000, “that is positive, I think we’re running in a positive direction, plans are heading in a positive direction ,” Hebert said. While Sage can help the district look at other providers, if they decide to go with someone else next year instead of Cigna, the district will not be able to get that surplus.
Gordon Insurance is a family-owned independent agency, with an office in Sterling, who works with a third party to provide health insurance. They can help the district with whatever they choose to do, whether it is a fully insured plan or a level or market funded plan. All quotes that the company would provide for the district would come from the national “big four” health insurance providers.
While the company did not have any specific recommendations for the district at this time, they did tell the board that the district could save $300,000 “if you take control of your program.” If RE-1 decides to go that route, they suggested the district get feedback from employees about that money should be used, they would rather see better benefits, less coming out of their paycheck, or a higher HSA plan and more money going into the HSA.
CEBT, Colorado Employer Benefit Trust, is a multiple employer trust for public institutions providing employee benefits. Since 1980, CEBT has grown to approximately 33,000 members and over 400 participating groups. Right now, they serve 83 school districts in Colorado and recently Morgan County School District made the decision to switch to them as their broker.
“What you want to determine is does it make sense for a group of your size, knowing that you have claims that go up and down during different periods of your history, to join a larger group to try to stabilize that and have a little bit more level renewal,” Frank Urman, creator of CEBT, told the board.
Their providers include United Healthcare, Delta Dental and VSP.
According to Urman, in the last four years two of those years CEBT refunded $22 million back to participating employers in the trust. If RE-1 would have been a participating member of CEBT at that time, they would have gotten a check for about $110,000, twice. However, if claims are adverse, the rates go up and dividend is not declared.
He also told the board if they use CEBT the district will get its renewal amount no later than March 1, so they will have plenty of time to make decisions for employees if they don’t like what’s going on.
“You don’t really have an enviable job tonight, because your very late in the cycle, you have to have open enrollment and so if you have to make a lot of decisions in relationship to what you want to do, it’s going to delay the amount of time until you can start open enrollment,” Urman said.
Lastly, the Colorado Public Education Health Plan, formerly known as BEST, is dedicated exclusively to Colorado’s K-12 school districts. It is a non-profit health care trust that is governed by its members and school leadership professionals from across the state of Colorado. They currently serve 26 school districts in Colorado, from large to small, including Julesburg School District.
“What this model brings is the assurance that more of the dollars that Valley School District has designated to cover the healthcare of their employees goes towards that purpose,” said Ben Taylor, chief growth officer.
CPEHP looked at RE-1’s plan design, actual experience and renewal and then based on what they know they determined how it would fit within the benefit plan design that the superintendents across the region tell the trust work best for their employees. Mary Coleman, chief executive officer, noted the figures are not final, there can be changes, but they figured this offering would be a good starting point.
With the offering CPEHP brought, RE-1 would realize a $300,000 savings.
As the plans were presented, the board paid close attention to things like whether or not primary care providers in Sterling would be covered under the insurance and whether it would work with Banner Health.
The board now plans to send out a survey to employees to gather input on what they would like to see. Employees will need to get the survey done quickly though, as the board plans to have further discussion and possibly take action at its Monday, April 25 meeting. For those that missed the meeting and would like to see the presentations in more detail, a link to the video recording can be found on the district website.
In other business, the board approved procedures for interviewing candidates Wednesday to fill two of the three open board seats. Board president Steve Shinn has received three applications for the District 3 seat and two for the District 7 seat. No applications were submitted for the District 4 seat.