Oct 18, 2012 10:57 AM by AP
NEW IBERIA, La. (AP) - The Iberia Parish School Board has voted to split a projected $660,000 health insurance rate increase with its employees.
Superintendent Dale Henderson said on Wednesday employees would have to pay about $12 more a month in their premiums to cover their $330,000 share of the costs.
Board Chairman Elvin Pradia said the board has seen too many of these increases over the years and the burden to the employees continues to rise.
Pradia tells The Advocate the increased costs are particularly burdensome considering that employee salaries have not increased over the past five years.
Board health insurance adviser James Perez said this year's Blue Cross health insurance policy totals $15.5 million but will rise to $16.1 million starting January 2013.
The 4.3 percent increase is about average when compared with other parishes, he said.
St. Mary Parish saw an increase of more than 12 percent, he said, and that parish's School Board absorbed the entire cost.
Henderson said the yearly rate increases eventually could point where employees may be unable or unwilling to pay the cost of the premiums. He added the board may not be able to afford the costs either.
Board member Jesse McDonald said the board will address the health insurance costs when its Goals Committee meets later this year and will discuss ways of budgeting for the increases.
The health insurance industry has changed over the past few years, Perez said, and with new federal and state regulations set to kick in starting next year, the school board will have to expect the cost increases will be a reality.
The school system has been able to negotiate continuations of current rates in the past, Perez said, but that may not be possible in the future due to the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act and other new laws. He said the new laws impose mandates on insurers and health care providers that will be passed on to consumers.
"There should be no surprise that there's going to be a rate increase," Perez said.