As President Barack Obama prepared to take to the airwaves to defend his health care overhaul last week, Hernando school officials got a little insurance sticker shock of their own.
The district’s insurance carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, is seeking a 21.5 percent rate increase.
“We expected increases in health insurance, but you don’t really expect 21 percent increases,” said Heather Martin, the district’s executive director of business services. “It’s very disappointing in these economic times.”
The actual increase will likely come in at least a few percentage points below that, Martin said. Last year, for example, Blue Cross started with an 18 percent increase. By tweaking plans and raising deductibles and co-pays, the two sides brought that down to 12 percent.
Martin said she’s hopeful this year’s increase will be closer to 15 percent and that the district’s insurance committee — composed of staffers and members of both unions — had made progress toward that number during talks with Blue Cross on Wednesday.
Blue Cross declined to comment beyond a written statement issued through spokesman Mark Wright.
The specifics of our negotiations with any client are confidential. However, I can say that for groups such as this, projected claims experience for the upcoming plan year is the determining factor for premium rate calculations.”
In other words, the company uses the district’s claims history and estimates for what next year’s claims will be to justify the rate increase.
The district’s history isn’t exactly pretty, Martin acknowledged.
Claims have been “relatively high” in recent years, she said. Last year, Blue Cross paid more than $14 million in claims.
“We are not an extremely healthy district,” Martin said. “We have not improved it.”
Martin noted, though, that the district is “punished” for the lack of urgent care facilities in the county. That forces employees to go to hospital emergency rooms, an expensive way to get urgent care that drives up the district’s clams, she said.