Chief Financial Officer
"That is the reason why we're bringing this information to you today," Gaines said. "You can see every year has gone up."
Employee health care benefits have cut into or overcome cost of living pay increases for employees of school districts in
"I'm very familiar with . . . what you go through on an annual basis regarding setting budgets and making sure that you offer these good benefits that your employees deserve," said
Hartman, who also works with several other districts in
HMOs became unpopular for requiring people to visit their primary care physician in order to arrange specialist visits, among other reasons, Hartman said, but he added the plans have changed and become more accessible.
"It's a whole new game with HMOs now and they're much more popular than they used to be," said Anthem account representative
High-deductible health care plans represent the fastest-growing trend, though, he said. These plans don't provide any insurance payment until after a significant deductible, usually at least several thousand dollars, but offer the option of a health savings account that employers usually contribute to and that employees can take with them into retirement--or into another job.
Board members said they thought that option might be popular with younger teachers who use their health insurance less on average, but were concerned about taking away options that have been popular with their employees.
"I understand you come from a 100 percent business standpoint," board member
She asked what Hartman would recommend.
"It is the toughest decision to make," Hartman said. "You feel bad for these employees when they have to choose a plan when they had such nice benefits as they did before. But there are things that are palatable, and you can offer them a choice."
He suggested making changes over time and offering a variety of options to employees to have a chance to adjust the schools' funding going forward.
He wants them to feel like a part of the discussion, not simply to be told something's going to change, he said.
"I think hopefully it's coming through ... our employees need and deserve the best employee benefit plan we can provide them," Baker said. "We have to make decisions one way or the other, and it certainly is becoming more and more challenging to address both salary and benefits."
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