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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 14, 2011

BKW joins BOCES coalition

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — After agreeing that Berne-Knox-Westerlo needed to explore its options for reducing health insurance costs, the school board voted Monday to join the Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ not-for-profit Municipal Benefit Coalition, meaning that BOCES will replace Benetech as the district’s insurance broker, at least for the 2011-12 school year.

The district will pay $4,700 for the first year, the same amount that it paid Benetech this year.

“The consortium you’re in now is basically just a group-purchasing agreement with the five districts,” Dana Piazza, benefits administrator for BOCES, said on Monday. “What we’re talking about is a trust…It would have a governing body, a standard set of meetings, a common agenda, a common mission and vision, and we would open it up…to other schools and municipalities to come in and be part of the cost sharing with us.”

The Municipal Benefit Coalition essentially offers three services:

— A cooperative service agreement in which BOCES acts as a third-party administrator, a liaison between the district and its insurance carriers, costing the district $7 per enrolled employee per month, with menu pricing also available, and this cost is BOCES aidable;

— Consulting services, included in the $7 per enrolled employee per month; and

— Putting out a request for proposals for a joint pharmacy, at no charge.

According to BOCES, school districts pay an average $12 per employee per month, though this is neither a state nor national average, but rather based on observation.

The district’s health insurance premiums for the 2010-11 school year total $3.8 million, of which 91 percent is paid by the district.

So, 18 percent of BKW’s budget — $3.5 million out of $19.6 million — is for health-insurance for district employees; the Guilderland Central School District is paying $10.2 million of its $87.5 million budget — 12 percent; the Bethlehem Central School District is paying $10.4 million out of its $88.3 million budget — 12 percent. The Voorheesville School District, closer in size to BKW than Guilderland and Bethlehem, pays $2.7 million out of its $21.7 million budget — also 12 percent.

Guilderland employees for years have paid 20 percent of their health-insurance costs, while the district pays 80 percent.

BKW School Board member Jill Norray, reminding Piazza of the current economic climate, asked if joining the coalition would mean savings for this year.

“Like any other broker out there, I can certainly go to another carrier and say, ‘Give me another quote on some other product,’” said Piazza. “It’s a new concept, so you really want to give it some time. I’d like to be able to help more with savings for this year…I have been working with Empire, with Benetech, to get your rate increase down.”

She went on to say that the district would likely have an idea by March of what savings joining the coalition would bring.

Should BKW remain in the coalition in the years to come, money that currently goes towards Benetech’s commissions as the district’s broker would instead go towards cost containment.

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