Governor Mike Beebe on Monday signed bills passed over the weekend, in a special session, which partially reduce a rise in public school employee insurance premiums. The session was called to address both short and long-term fixes but some of the reforms have yet to be crafted. A task force will study the issue further in the coming months.
Ongoing funding to mitigate premium increases will partially come from school facility and teacher development funds. But Beebe said that’s just one part of a more permanent fix.
“The second part of the long term solution is a systemic change, which we never thought we could do in three days. It was always contemplated that was going to take some in depth study, some testimony, and you couldn’t do that in three days. That’s going to take a year, or at least several months,” said Beebe.
Before the special session Beebe had said a lack of enrollment in the insurance plan had contributed to premium increases. He says it’s too soon to tell if efforts to fix the program will turn around enrollment trends.
“In terms of getting more participation I think we’re going to have to wait until we see what the task force comes up with in terms of systemic changes before whether we know whether we’ll get increased participation. We’ll have to see what the plans end up being,” said Beebe.
In addition to allocating more funding, the 14-member task force is stipulated to introduce deductibles to insurance plans and reorganize the Employee Benefit Division Board. Premiums are expected to rise 10 percent instead of 50 percent as a result of legislation from the special session.