Health plan in good standing

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MASSENA — Fewer visits to the doctor and fewer elective surgeries have kept the St. Lawrence-Lewis Health Insurance Consortium in good financial shape for the 13 participating school districts and BOCES.

“Our numbers are looking pretty good,” Massena Central School Superintendent Patrick Brady told his board of education following the consortium’s quarterly meeting.

Mr. Brady is the district’s representative on the plan’s board.

“As far as our (health insurance) plan is concerned, we have not had a lot of cases where our employees have had to be hospitalized for COVID, and they’re not getting the elective surgeries and they’re not going to the doctor. So the plan last year with the pandemic has been saving some money on insurance,” he said.

While that’s good now, it may not be so good in the future, he said.

“There is a concern once things get back to normal. On the financial side, we have to be prepared for it. We want people to go get their checkups. This is another concern, that not getting their checkups and going to the doctor could lead to longer-term issues, which is bad for the employee and bad for the health insurance plan. They have built the budget together based on that,” he said.

He said the withdrawal of three school districts has also impacted the plan. At their request, the Canton, Edwards-Knox and Ogdensburg school districts have officially withdrawn from the plan.

“A couple of them were running at a loss, so actually that has kind of helped the plan, according to the report,” Mr. Brady said.

He said, because of those factors, they were looking at a 2% increase in the health insurance plan.

“The industry average right now is about a 3½% to 5% increase in premiums. They feel with the level of fund balance now because of the savings through the pandemic period, that we would be looking at the next year, maybe a couple of years, where we could be at that lower level of increase in health insurance,” Mr. Brady said.

He said health insurance was one of the biggest costs in the district. The Massena Central School District currently budgets $12,594,723 for health insurance.

Workmen’s compensation was also in good shape, he said.

“They’re not looking for an increase next year. Because of the pandemic, they’ve seen less cases of workmen’s comp during the pandemic last year. So they were able to save some money this year. The first quarter was higher, but part of that was they were paying off a couple of large claims. Overall, they feel they have a pretty healthy fund balance and they’re not looking for any increase in workmen’s comp claims for next year,” Mr. Brady said.

The Massena Central School District currently budgets $370,069 for workmen’s compensation claims. Claims over the past four years, along with associated plan costs were $420,435 in 2016-17; $284,114 in 2017-18; $343,905 in 2018-19; and $228,577 in 2019-20.

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