Board strug­gles with health care con­sor­tium de­ci­sion

The Advance of Bucks County - - NEWTOWN AREA - By Cary Beavers

NEW­TOWN – Coun­cil oock School Board and ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ued their months-long con­sid­er­a­tion of join­ing a con­sor­tium to pro­vide ben­e­fits for their em­ploy­eesK

The dis­cus­sion took place at the board’s jarch T meet­ingI and judg­ing by the dis­cus­sionI the board could very well need the two weeks prior to their next full board meet­ing to de­cide whether to joinK

The board went through the plusses and mi­nuses of join­ing the con­sor­tiumI called the Bucks and jont­gomery County Schools goint iaborL­jan­age­ment Health Care Con­sor­tiumI which al­ready has com­mit­ments from NR school dis­tricts in Bucks and jont­gomery coun­tiesI in­clud­ing Bris­tol Bor­oughI jor­risville and Ne­shaminyK

There is lit­tle doubt among the board mem­bers that ini­tial­lyI join­ing the con­sor­tium would save the district mon­eyK The con­cern stems from the months and years af­ter the ini­tial sav­ingsK

“Our en­try into the con­sor­tium would come with an im­me­di­ate sav­ings in the ad­min­is­tra­tive costs that In­de­pen­dence Blue Cross charges us to ad­min­is­ter our health care pro­gramI” Su­per­in­ten­dent jark hlein saidK hlein has been mod­er­at­ing the dis­cus­sionsI not lead­ing the board one way or an­oth­erK He’s pro­vid­ing factsI not opin­ionsK

Ac­cord­ing to hleinI the ini­tial sav­ings could be negated com­plete­lyK

“The cost would re­sult in im­me­di­ate sav­ings of ANSMIMMM for the NP-N4 school yearI” he saidK “How­ev­erI as stated both in the fo­rum and at our last board meet­ingI en­try into the con­sor­tium also locks us into a more rigid struc­ture and that sav­ings could be af­fected by the struc­tureK If the loss of con­trol re­sults in changes in our to­tal costs of N per­centI it would negate this sav­ingsK”

Patty Sex­ton was the first board mem­ber to speak upI and spoke in fa­vor of Coun­cil oock’s in­clu­sionK

“I would vote for go­ingI” Sex­ton saidK “The wor­ries and con­cerns that peo­ple hadI I don’t think really ex­istK”

cor Sex­tonI the tim­ing is right for Coun­cil oock to dip its toe into the con­sor­tium wa­terK

“We’re in a con­tract with what we ne­go­ti­ated nowI” Sex­ton saidK “We’ll have time to be in xthe con­sor­tiumz and to get out if we wantK I think it will ben­e­fit us go­ing for­wardK”

Board mem­ber gerold Grupp sounded skep­ti­calI if only be­cause of who orig­i­nally de­liv­ered the pro-con­sor­tium mes­sage dur­ing an in­for­ma­tional meet­ing held cebK 2UK

“I have con­cerns with this process be­cause the per­son who’s pre­sent­ing the ar­gu­ments for the con­sor­tium is ac­tu­ally the coun­cil to the con­sor­tiumI” Grupp said in ref­er­ence to cred a’An­geloI who spoke to the board at the cebK 2U meet­ingK “I have to bal­ance what this does to the in­de­pen­dence and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion of this board ver­sus be­ing part of a larger groupK”

Paul Anag­nos­takos ac­knowl­edged the short term gain butI like many on the boardI won­dered about the long-term im­pli­ca­tionsK

“I think in the short term it’s not a bad ideaI” Anag­nos­takos saidK “The district has to save money any way it canK”

Anag­nos­takos con­tin­ued by say­ing the fear of the un­known is the main rea­son the board should think long and hard about join­ing the ben­e­fits groupK What looks like a cer­tain money-saver now might not turn out that way in the long runK

“To­day we’re at the point where if you’re on a cor­po­rate plan it’s cheaper than if you buy it your­selfI” said Anag­nos­takosI who deals with in­surance plans as a den­tistK “The government says they can do it cheaper than the cor­po­rate rates you get nowK Over the long termI I don’t think any­body really thought they were go­ing to turn out the way they are to­dayK I think that’s pos­si­bly what can hap­pen with this con­cept over timeK”

a’An­gelo and oth­ers who fa­vor the con­sor­tium bring up the al­lowance of leav­ing the con­sor­tium if it doesn’t do what the board ex­pects it to doK That might not be the sav­ing grace it ap­pears to beI Anag­nos­takos saidK

“If you pull out a few years down the roadI you may pos­si­bly see things not work out as an­tic­i­pat­edI” Anag­nos­takos saidI “and I don’t even know what that could beK There could be longterm risksK But un­less some­one on the board has a real ma­jor prob­lem with the process and it saves the district money I think it’s worth itK”

Other board mem­bers shared their opin­ionsI leav­ing ob­servers to feel as though the board seems no closer to mak­ing a de­ci­sion than when the process start­edK The de­ci­sion is loom­ingI thoughI as hlein said the board will vote on the mat­ter jarch 2NK

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