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BUSD bargains for health care

Molly Shore

Hoping to curb spiraling health-insurance costs, the Burbank Unified

School District is negotiating with the Burbank Teachers Assn. to

drop its existing health coverage in favor of more affordable

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insurance plans, officials said Tuesday.

District and union officials met in closed session late Tuesday to

discuss the plan, which school board member Dave Kemp estimates could

save the district between $1.5 million and $2 million annually if

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the district opts not to renew the California Public Employees

Retirement System health plans carried by hundreds of

union-represented teachers. He also hinted that teachers could

receive raises as part of district concessions.

“If there is a savings and it ends up being a go, we have to

decide what we’re going to do with the money we save,” Kemp said

prior to the special meeting. “I would imagine if the district will

save a ton of money switching, that somewhere in there ... [teachers

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will] ask for a share of the savings. I don’t blame them for that. We

haven’t given them much of a raise in the last couple of years.”

When asked what teachers stand to gain from the negotiations, BTA

co-President Kim Allender said: “That remains to be seen on how the

district reacts at the negotiations [Tuesday afternoon]. It certainly

figures into the scheme of things.”

According to Allender, who is participating in the negotiations,

the union represents 850 Burbank Unified teachers, nurses and

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counselors.

“At this point, there’s certainly a possible chance that we could

reach an equitable agreement that would allow teachers to pull out of

CalPERS,” Allender said.

If the two sides agree to discontinue with CalPERS, Kemp said any

new coverage would be comparable to what teachers receive now.

“The problem is, there’s a lot of people who want to stay with

their own doctors,” Kemp said. “People will have to make some choices

about getting new doctors.”

Kaiser Permanente, a health provider offered through CalPERS,

charges $312 a month for one party, but is planning to raise its

premium to $366, Kemp said. If the district discontinues CalPERS and

signs with provider PacifiCare, the monthly premium for one party

would be $330, he added. Health Net and two additional HMOs would

also be offered at the same price as PacifiCare, Kemp said.

Another aspect of the negotiations might be capping benefit costs,

Kemp said.

“We have to explore every way to reel in these costs,” he said.

“We’re saving money, but then it costs employees money, so that’s

where negotiations come in.”

If the district and the union agree to discontinue the union’s

existing health coverage provider, the district must notify CalPERS

by Friday, Kemp said. If a decision is not reached by then, the

district is obligated to remain with CalPERS for another year, he

said.

Supt. Gregory Bowman said a follow-up, closed-session meeting has

been scheduled for Thursday, but declined to disclose any details of

the negotiations.


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