Facing millions in rising costs, the Pinellas County School Board is considering a new health insurance plan that would dramatically increase employees' out-of-pocket costs in the coming year.
District officials estimate the proposed plan would save about $20 million, which could be used for employee salaries and budget cuts.
Superintendent John Stewart said the district's plan cost $120 million this year; next year, it's estimated at $127 million. The school district pays 80 percent of that, while employees pay 20 percent.
But the proposed plan comes with heavy costs for employees, including:
• A $2,500 deductible for individuals and a $5,000 family deductible. The current plan has no deductible.
•Employees would pay 20 percent of costs after the deductible is met. Employees now have fixed prices for hospital visits, emergency room trips and urgent care.
•Maximum annual costs would be $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family, including the deductible. That's double the maximum costs of the current plan.
"If you go to this, so many of our employees will absolutely not be able to be part of this," said board member Linda Lerner.
Any change would need to be negotiated with the unions. Officials from the teachers union couldn't be reached Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Kim Black, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, said negotiations weren't going "as well as we hoped." She described employees as "benefit rich and salary poor."
Board members plan to discuss the proposal again at a workshop meeting Monday. They asked for more information about "gap coverage." With gap insurance, employees could pay a monthly fee to cover their deductible in the event of an emergency.
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at email@example.com,(727)-893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.