With a tight budget to meet this year, the Whitefish Bay School Board is aiming to hold the line on health insurance costs and cut the double-digit rate increases proposed by insurance carriers.
The School Board discussed three health insurance bids at a Wednesday meeting, but the board will not adopt a plan or provider until it receives survey input from district employees.
Shawn Yde, the district's business manager, is working with Hays Companies to achieve a zero percent increase in health insurance costs.
"When we looked at moving forward with the budget this year, early on we made the assumption ... that it was likely we would have to implement salary freezes and keep insurance costs at zero just to balance the budget," Yde said.
Of the five carriers approached, only three companies submitted bids. Wisconsin Education Association Trust pitched the lowest bid — a 9 percent increase — beating out Humana's 9.19 percent increase over last year and United Health Care's 16.72 percent increase over last year.
WEA Trust originally submitted a bid for a 12 percent increase over last year, but later lowered its bid to 9 percent because it wanted to maintain its relationship with the school district.
If the district moves forward with WEA Trust as its provider, it will also be eligible for an additional 4.1 percent cost reduction through the Early Retirement Reinsurance Program credit included in the federal government's health care reform legislation.
WEA Trust also provides a 1, 2 or 3 percent credit through the insurance company's Population Health wellness program. It is optional for employees to participate in the wellness program, but some districts encourage employees to participate by offering lower rates to those who participate in the metabolic testing and other facets of the program. The testing would not be available until next school year and the program would not take effect until the following 2013-14 school year.
WEA Trust bid a 2.2 percent decrease in its dental plans, which is lower than other companies and cheaper than self-funding its insurance.
To get down to a zero percent increase, the district is also looking at a number of plan design changes, but administrators are not asking employees to increase their 8 percent contribution to health insurance premiums.
The discussion of WEA's low bid comes just a week after Shorewood switched away from WEA, saving $537,000. WEA is a nonprofit insurance organization created by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state's largest teachers union.
Yde said all schools will see different bids from WEA. Whitefish Bay's rates have always been dictated by experience, while other districts have been part of the pool.
"Some of those districts would be net payers and some of them would be beneficiaries of pool rates," Yde said. "When some districts have left WEA, they tend to be the districts who can go out and bid and find a lower rate. The ones that tend to stay were the ones that are net payers because they were probably having their rates subsidized by the other districts."