Pasco schools spent $11M on COVID health care for unvaccinated employees - freetxp

Pasco schools spent $11M on COVID health care for unvaccinated employees

The Pasco County school district is running a deficit of about $11 million in its self-insured health policy, with most of that amount owing to COVID-related services for unvaccinated employees.

According to data provided by Blue Cross, which manages the district plan, 97 percent of $11.3 million in COVID-related claims during 2021 were incurred by plan participants who identified themselves to their health providers as being unvaccinated.

The information, delivered to School Board members on Monday, came as the district’s insurance committee has been reviewing policy needs for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July. Committee members and other district officials are discussing how to keep the plan in a positive financial shape, and whether any policy changes will be needed.

Related: Florida says healthy kids shouldn’t get COVID vaccine, contradicting CDC

Those conversations include looking at whether the district can use its federal coronavirus stimulus money to make up the difference. They also are likely to ponder different premium or coverage requirements for plan members based on their status.

No decisions have been made along those lines, and it’s not clear what, if any, changes will be made to the school district’s health plan.

“That’s not something we decided have typically done in the past,” School Board Chairperson Cynthia Armstrong said, referring to the idea of ​​higher premiums based on plan members’ health. Rather, she noted, the district has worked with its wellness committee to provide incentives for positive actions such as smoking cessation.

“We have never done anything punitive,” she said.

The district does not collect data on which employees or plan members are vaccinated. It does not require vaccination to participate, and state law does not allow for such a mandate. The district did make vaccinations available to employees who wanted them.

Related: Pasco schools set up weekend vaccinations for employees 50 and older

Still, it needs to maintain state-required levels in its insurance reserves, which means that it must make up for the shortfall. If it wants to use the federal money to do so, the district would need to receive state permission.

“We’re going to have to make some pretty significant decisions about the plan later this summer,” said Kevin Shibley, assistant superintendent for administration. “This helps us understand where the claims are coming from.”

He anticipated some pointed questioning when the insurance committee meets again in April, as these marks the first time the district has received detailed numbers on the costs associated with vaccination choices.

“Ultimately, everyone in the plan is bearing the cost of these claims,” Shibley said. “It certainly begs the question.”

Officials have said $11 million is about the equivalent of an across-the-board raise close to 2 percent for district employees.

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Board members said they did not intend to judge employees based on vaccinations. They expect the discussion to remain focused on the financial needs of keeping the insurance plan viable.

“It definitely is something that will have to be addressed,” Armstrong said.

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