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Health insurance battle continues in Pinellas



Employees of the Pinellas County School District still are in doubt about what kind of health insurance they're going to have - and it doesn't look like the unions and the district have made much progress in reaching a resolution.

The school district's first proposal would dramatically increase out-of-pocket costs for employees. Union representatives have argued that the district is deliberately trying to back the School Board into a corner. They also accused district officials of not providing information in a timely manner. (See that story here.)

Now it appears that the war of words continues.

Superintendent John Stewart sent this email to employees Thursday:

"Sent: Thu 6/28/2012 2:49 PM

I wanted to inform you that the Health Insurance Advisory Council, a group composed of district and union membership, made great progress at its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, June 27.
The council reached consensus in support of the Triple Option Model healthcare plan provided by Humana. As reported in the June 18 Monday Update, the model includes staff Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Consumer-Directed Health Plan (CDHP) options. It also includes a National Point of Service (NPOS) option aimed at replacing the Select HMO plan.
Both the CDHP and the NPOS would offer a broad national provider network and access to specialists without referrals. No decisions have been made on specific payroll deductions associated with the plans. More details will be provided as they become available.
Please keep in mind that it will be up to the School Board to make final decisions regarding approval of the plans.
The council also discussed efforts to get a district Wellness Center up and running by early 2013.

John A. Stewart"

Officials from the teachers union then sent this message to members:

"FROM: Kim Black, President
Marshall Ogletree, Executive Director
RE: Response to email from Superintendent Stewart entitled “Important information about our employee health plan negotiations”
DATE: June 28, 2012
It is an outrage that the decisions made by the Health Insurance Advisory Council on June 27th were announced in a way that provides greater confusion than clarity about potential health insurance changes for 2013. The decisions made by the unions and management were not negotiations. The impact on employees is yet to be bargained. There was considerable discussion of the importance of communicating with and educating employees about the changes and choices available to all employees. The superintendent’s email to employees was premature and violated the spirit of what the Council agreed upon. The Superintendent was not at the meeting and while the message is mostly accurate, a few paragraphs cannot explain the complexity of this issue nor can it answer your questions. The Superintendent has the management right to communicate with employees at any time but this message was the wrong message at the wrong time.
PCTA will provide members with all detailed information as soon as possible; however, we will not have completed negotiations on premiums until we complete full negotiations on salary and other outstanding articles of the Contract. Attached below you will find our immediate email correspondence from both of us to the Superintendent and the School Board."

"June 28, 2012
Message sent by Marshall Ogletree to Steve Swartzel and copied to Superintendent Stewart:
I guess this means we cannot read the Superintendent’s message. While I understand you tried to read it to me, it was a foregone conclusion that this was going out. Unfortunately, this makes the HIAC process somewhat of a joke when we cannot prepare a joint statement. Even the subject of the email “Important information about our employee health plan negotiations” is incorrect. Every time we do something positive and I believe most people left yesterday with a positive feeling, we take a giant step backwards! Very frustrating!
The document provides just enough information that people want more and there is no plan to provide more information.
At yesterday’s meeting, we discussed the need to educate the employees in a collaborative way and bring them along in this process upon their return in the fall. Now we will have to do a lot of that through the impersonal use of email. Our phones are already ringing. I hope Risk Management is getting them as well.
Marshall Ogletree
Executive Director

"Message sent by Kim Black to Superintendent Stewart, School Board Members, Legal Council and other district staff:
I wholeheartedly agree with Marshall’s comments in his email. The question below is just one amongst numerous emails I am receiving following your email to the employees. These poor and ineffective communications have resulted in an onslaught of legitimate questions and concerns from the employees and to our PCTA staff. It is beyond my comprehension why the District continues to instill anxiety and uncertainty about potential changes to employee benefits when most are not employed during the summer. Is the District prepared to answer numerous questions about the details of a Consumer-Directed Health Plan or a National Point of Service option when informational materials have yet to be developed and final negotiations have not occurred?
The title of the email is absolutely incorrect. “Negotiations” will occur during the Bargaining Leadership Team meeting established for August 1. The recommendations from the HIAC will be presented at that time.
Without the proper education pieces in place, a concept that everyone on the Health Insurance Advisory Council jointly agreed to yesterday, the “teaser” that came out in the form of an announcement has driven more fear into the system. This is extremely unfortunate.
“Will we still be able to afford health insurance?” (PCTA member question)
Kim Black"

[Last modified: Friday, June 29, 2012 11:16am]


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