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East Baton Rouge Schools Supt. Warren Drake takes questions outside the school board office on Oct. 24, 2018.

After two years of no change, health insurance premiums for East Baton Rouge Parish school employees may soon rise again.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board is expected Thursday to approve a 6.4 percent hike in monthly premiums for employees, both active and retired, who use insurance provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana. The increase would take effect in January.

The last premium increase, 7.7 percent, went into effect in 2017.

On May 2, the board, voting 7-0, gave preliminary approval to a package of changes to employee medical coverage, including a new premium increase. Board member Dawn Collins was absent and Dadrius Lanus left the meeting early.

If the school system does nothing, Mercer, the human resources firm acting as the school system’s health care consultant, predicts employee medical expenses in 2020 will increase by almost 11 percent. That’s about $6.8 million more than that coverage costs now.

The proposed monthly premium increases would fill nearly $4 million of that $6.8 million gap.

The 6.4 percent increase for those on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana plans would be applied to both the school system’s portion of the premiums as well as those of individual employees.

Not everyone would see an increase. Retired employees who have purchased Medicare Advantage plans through Humana would see no change in their premiums.

Here are the higher monthly premiums broken down by the type of employee and Blue Cross plan:

  • Active employee: $87.10, or $5.24 more a month, on the Core plan; $190.24, or $11.44 more a month, on the more-generous Buy Up plan.
  • Active employee with spouse and children: $602.81, or $36.26 more a month, on the Core plan; $841.18, or $50.60 more a month, for those same employees on the Buy Up plan.
  • Retired employee not eligible for Medicare: $253.13, or $15.17 more a month, on the Core plan; $417.15, or $25.09 more a month, on the Buy Up plan.
  • Retired employee not eligible for Medicare with spouse and children: $768.97, or $46.25 more a month, on the Core plan; $1,133.42, or $68.18 more a month, on the Buy Up plan.
  • Retired employee eligible for Medicare: $341.10, or $20.52 more a month, on the Core plan; $430.96, or $25.92 more a month, on the Buy Up plan.
  • Retired employee eligible for Medicare with spouse and children: $799.05, or $48.06 more a month, on the Core plan; $1,005.21, or $60.46 more a month, on the Buy Up plan.

Another $2.8 million in proposed health insurance savings would come from other changes.

A big one is the launching of a third Blue Cross insurance plan called “Community Blue Narrow Network.” The Narrow plan, priced between the Core and Buy Up plans, would give participants substantial savings but only if they use doctors and facilities in the Blue Cross network.

Another change would increase deductibles.

For those getting care in the Blue Cross network, the new deductibles would be $600 a year in Core and $1,000 a year for Buy Up. That’s $200 and $400 more than they are now. Out-of-network deductibles would jump to $1,000 in Core and $1,800 in Buy Up. That’s $600 and $1,200 more than they are now.

The Narrow plan would start with a $500 deductible in network and $1,500 out of network.

Annual out-of-pocket maximums are set to shoot up as well. For Core members, they’d increase 68 percent, while they’d almost double for Buy Up members.

Employees on Buy Up plans would have the greatest impact. Currently their out-of-pocket maximum ranges from as low of $2,900 for in-network care to a high of $17,400 for out-of-network care. That would increase to a low of $5,850 for in-network care to a high of $35,100 for out-of-network care.

Valencia Johnson, a third-grade teacher at Sharon Hills Elementary in Baton Rouge, spoke out on May 2 against the out-of-pocket maximum increase, saying those higher levels are too much for employees to handle.

“If you have a critical illness, that is going to make your expenses skyrocket,” she said.

The School Board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m at the School Board Office, 1050 S. Foster Drive.


Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.