Dramatic increase in claims means higher insurance cost for SDR
By Eileen Persike
School District of Rhinelander employees are facing increased health insurance costs for the coming fiscal year, following unprecedented claims against the district’s insurance company. A 16% increase for the district has led to the doubling of employee deductibles, from $500 to $1,000 for a single person and from $1,000 to $2,000 for a family. The news was brought to the school board Employee Relations Committee, and then the full board Monday, before district staff was informed. Superintendent Kelli Jacobi said they only recently received the renewal pricing from the insurance company and had to act fast.
“We understand that employees have not seen this information and we’re sure it’s shocking, [it’s] very hard after so many years of not seeing increases to get hit with a doozy like this now,” superintendent Kelli Jacobi said. “We did the best we could under the time constraints.”
District business manager Marta Kwiatkowski pointed out that even with the increase, Rhinelander has the lowest deductible and employee costs among eight other area school districts.
“We looked at a lot of options,” Jacobi added. “Some that would have made the insurance a lot cheaper but that wasn’t our goal because people have worked hard to have fabulous insurance in our district. We didn’t want to let it crash and choose a less costly plan to be able to afford it.”
Outgoing school board and committee member Dennis O’Brien did not hold back in his criticism.
“I accept how you present the information but the problem is you didn’t even discuss it with your employees. At all,” O’Brien said. “The fact that they haven’t seen any of this or heard any words from you until you’re asking me to vote in favor of it? I’m not gonna do it.”
Changes in health insurance companies in 2011-12 and 2015, and the addition of the Aspirus on-site clinic have resulted in “zero or negative percentage changes,” Kwiatkowski said. “This is the first time we’re seeing double digit increases in several years.”
The increase, the board was told, was due to ten individuals having claims of over $1 million since July 2018.
“If claims drop substantially, 7% or less [next year], I would suggest we negotiate with the carrier or go out for bids and see if we can get better rates,” Kwiatkowski said. “However the claims we have are chronic, I don’t see that happening next year; maybe two years down the road, but not next year.”
The full board approved the increase in insurance premiums 8-1, with O’Brien being the lone hold out.