Killeen Independent School District employees Tuesday pleaded with four members of the district’s board of trustees to reconsider their vote on the district’s health plan for the current school year.
A standing room-only crowd packed the Killeen ISD boardroom during the board’s regular monthly meeting, with several employees speaking out against the selection of Blue Cross Blue Shield as the employee health care provider for the 2013-2014 school year over TRS ActiveCare.
“We are very disappointed,” said Glynda Neuwirth, a Killeen ISD employee. “It’s going to negatively impact working families.”
Board members Shelley Wells, JoAnn Purser, Susan Jones and Ken Ray voted Sept. 26 to select Blue Cross Blue Shield over TRS ActiveCare, a health care system run by the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.
The 4-2 vote — with Trustees Terry Delano and Corbett Lawler dissenting — came despite a recommendation from the district’s administration, and an employee vote that favored ActiveCare over Blue Cross Blue Shield and Scott & White.
The members who voted against TRS expressed a number of concerns, including fears that the cost of TRS ActiveCare could go up unexpectedly due to the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Neuwirth was one of nine people who used the meeting’s open public forum to discuss the issue. Many of the employees who spoke said higher premiums under Blue Cross Blue Shield, as opposed to those under ActiveCare, would create a financial burden for themselves and their families.
District employee Renee Rice said she would be paying $1,145 a month for health care for her family, a $300 increase from the previous year.
“That $300 is groceries and day care payments,” Rice said. “It’s not anything frivolous.”
Lower-paid employees such as classroom aides, bus drivers and maintenance workers would be heavily burdened by the higher premiums, Killeen ISD teacher John Smallwood said.
“Those people may not have any money coming in at all,” Smallwood told board members.
That impact was something Killeen ISD employee Bud Ross said he experienced firsthand. Ross relayed stories of employees, some in tears, voicing worries about health care costs for their families to him.
“When you’re out there on the front lines and have these people coming to you ... it just yanks your heart right out,” Ross said.
Nearly all of the employees who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting asked the four members to change their vote, with one even calling for their resignation.
Speaking after a closed executive session with the district’s attorneys, Wells said undoing the legal decision regarding the health plan was “not a viable option.”
Wells characterized this year’s process as a “learning experience” and said it would factor into the board’s consideration for selecting a health care provider for the 2014-2015 school year.
“I certainly think we will take that all into consideration next year,” Wells said.