Schools save over half a million

Insurance switch saves money -- offers reward-based activity program, personal health records

March 19, 2008 at 9:18 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Despite their employees' willingness to stay with UnitedHealthcare, the St. Charles Parish School Board decided to end their 14-year relationship with the insurance company in order to save costs.

Humana, which was chosen over both UnitedHealthcare and Coventry, will offer the same coverage as UnitedHealthcare for $611,869 less next year.

“That savings represents the salary of 12 teachers and is enough for every one of our employees to get a 1 percent raise,” Insurance Committee Chairman and school board member John “Jay” Robichaux said. “The employees wanted to stay with United, but they said that if we did decide to change, they would rather go with Humana.”

The school district is currently paying a premium of $14,862,552 for insurance this year, but it would have cost $804,590 more to stay with UnitedHealthcare after the policy expires on April 20.

Humana, which is a Fortune 110 company with $20 billion in revenue and $13 billion in assets, is the carrier for Ochsner Health System and currently services the company and their 10,000 employees. In addition, Humana has a customer service representative located in the hospital.

“We are the fourth largest health benefits company in the nation,” Jay Fielder, vice president of commercial sales for Humana, said. “We are also the largest provider for the state of Louisiana's employees and an exclusive carrier for their retirees.”

Robichaux says that the healthcare provider also offers several unique services that made it attractive to the committee.

One of those services is Virgin Life Care's HealthMiles, which is a reward-based activity program for employees. Those employees will get a GoZone pedometer that is clipped to a belt or waistband and tracks daily activity. When the pedometer is plugged into a computer, it automatically loads the number of steps a person has taken into their HealthMiles account. By tracking this daily activity, a school employee will be eligible for up to $150 in rewards that can be used as cash at various national retailers.

Humana also offers SmartSuite, which is a portable health record that every member gets to help them understand how they're using their healthcare.

Though the board decided to go with Humana, they still have some work cut out for them when it comes to a decision on whether or not to offer group Medicare to their employees. Group Medicare is a plan that lets Medicare-eligible employees replace their Medicare card with their insurance company’s card. That way, an insurance company can offer lower premiums because it is getting reimbursed by Medicare.
The move would provide considerable cost savings for the school district, more than $500,000 this year alone, as long as every single Medicare-eligible employee chose to go on the program.

The decision on whether or not to join the program is left up to each individual Medicare-eligible employee.

“We have a big decision to make about Medicare, but we need to do more extensive research,” board member Stephen Crovetto said. “There was enough confusion when we presented the program to the retirees that I think it would be much better for them to lay their heads on their pillow tonight and know they are under the same plan they had with the previous supplier.”

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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Controversial State Police ticket program suspended in parish
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