HCDE Faces Rising Health Insurance Costs

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WDEF-TV) The Hamilton county school board Thursday night will decide on big changes in health insurance costs for teachers.
The vote was postponed last week to give employees a chance to get more information and make comments.
The teacher’s association is taking a strong stand against the changes.

SANDRA HUGHES, PRES., HAMILTON CO. EDUCATION ASSOCIATION "We don’t understand what the rush is. Why the people making the decisions can’t have time to meet with both Blue Cross and Cigna..and see where we really stand? "

Sandra Hughes says the school board will likely present two plans for school employees and their dependents at the Thursday meeting. And both,she says, would be painful.

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SANDRA HUGHES "Even the two options that they have requires not only changing from network P to network F…it also requires an increase of a hundred dollars per spouse ..If a person has a spouse that’s unemployed. It also requires increasing the cost of medications."

Two school board members we spoke to say they are still undecided on how to vote on the new plan.
But, Dr. Greg Martin, who represents district 3 told us the school district really doesn’t have much choice.

DR. GREG MARTIN, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER "I wish we didn’t have to do this. You know, I wish that Hamilton county had another 50 or 100 million dollars that we could put into education. But the reality is we don’t today. So we have to do something ..we cannot fail to act."

Dr. Martin disagrees with the complaint that teachers have not had a chance to give input.

GREG MARTIN "To say that teachers have not had access is a misnomer. I know that I’ve gotten all
kinds of emails and phone calls and I’m sure my colleagues have as well. ..talking to teachers and them giving their input about what they would like to see happen."

Sandra Hughes points-out that the district has the largest fund balance its had in 20 years—about 32 million dollars.
She wonders if that can’t be a factor in setting any new health insurance rates for teachers.
Hughes says she expects teachers to fill the meeting room tomorrow night, and others to send e-mails to all of the board members.