Straight-talking Fort Smith School Superintendent Benny Gooden says in this article what’s been written here several times about the legislature’s recent work on school employee health insurance, but he says it with the authority of direct experience:
“What they did was a Band-Aid and it wasn’t a well-placed one.”
The only “new” money provided by the legislature to reduce the impact of yet another round of punishing premium increases for those who take school employee insurance was taken — $4.6 million — from school districts. The state stole savings school districts realize from contributions to insurance coverage.
That money, Gooden noted, was used to lower premiums for employees. Now it’s gone.
“This is not found money. This is money we have used to pay insurance premiums,” Gooden said. “We don’t like that and if they’d asked we would have been glad to share that with them.”
The plan needs more younger, healthier members, Gooden said Rather than increase group insurance pools, however, the legislature threw part-timers off coverage, barred coverage of spouses with insurance plans at work and refused to consider blending the cheaper public employees plan (which legislators enjoy) with the public school plan.