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Hernando schools and union reach tentative deal on insurance

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County school workers will get a little more help with health insurance costs but not as much as the teachers union would like.

The Hernando School Board would contribute $503.42 per employee per month under a tentative agreement reached after the latest round of talks with the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. That's $6.92 more per month than the board first offered and $61.92 more than last year.

It's a small victory for teachers who sought relief from rising premiums but a loss in a philosophical argument with the School Board.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida hit the district with an average 14.5 percent premium increase this year. The board agreed to cover an additional $55 per employee per month regardless of the plan. The union, however, wanted the district to contribute more for employees who have family coverage. Some of those plans could see increases of nearly 20 percent, so teachers asked the district to ease the burden to those enrollees by kicking in another $268,000 for family plans over the second half of this fiscal year and the first half of next year.

The board balked, noting the district has never contributed more for some employees than others. To do so would be unfair, some board members have said.

Instead, the board has offered another $194,000 spread evenly over all plans. That would bring the district's total insurance cost over the next 12 months to about $14.8 million, a $1.93 million increase from last year.

The cost to employees in the HMO single plan would increase by $5 per month to $25. About 1,740 of the 2,600 enrollees opt for that plan, making it the most popular of eight offered by the district. The monthly contribution by an employee with children on the HMO plan would be $410.80, an increase of $64.14 from last year.

Both sides characterized the talks as amicable. Negotiating with the board is only one element of the union's efforts to fight rising premiums, said union president Joe Vitalo.

The board will consider the deal on Dec. 8. The union is expected to ratify its contract in January. All 1,700 Hernando teachers get to vote.

The Hernando United School Workers, the union for non-instructional employees, is expected to get the same insurance deal as the teachers.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Hernando schools and union reach tentative deal on insurance 11/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 16, 2009 8:00pm]
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