BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school board is wrangling with health insurance issues affecting current employees as well as retirees.
The long-term future is uncertain, but the wrangling has ceased for the upcoming 2014 timeframe, when the status quo will continue.
The Board of Education voted 7-0 Monday to put into writing the longtime act of covering 95 percent of the individual cost and 70 percent of the family cost of a mid-level insurance plan, which used to be the lower of two plans.
The other approved change would do the same for a long-time act of providing insurance for early retirees as well as those who retire after becoming eligible for Medicare, currently at age 65 for all but earlier for some if a disability qualifies them.
Director of Schools Jubal Yennie, addressing the board during a strategic planning work session Saturday morning, said confusion has reigned since Tennessee implemented a third health insurance plan, a limited PPO plan that provides lower benefits at a lower cost.
He said the intent always has been to cover the Blue Cross Blue Shield Partnership plan, which is between the limited PPO and the standard plan that is more expensive but does not require health screenings, health coaches and such.
Tennessee pays the complete cost of the UnitedHealthcare Medicare supplement plan for retirees and partial cost of other plans, while the county picks up the cost for non-professional retirees.
“It was a promise (to school system employees) made in good faith,” Sullivan County Education Association member Joe Smith told the board. He said it would be difficult for him to overemphasize the interest of teachers and retired teachers in the health insurance issue, and the Kingsport Times-News also has received calls from a retired teacher concerned about a benefits change.
Read more in the Thursday print edition of the Times-News or in the expanded electronic edition.