Gov. Mike Beebe says there will have to be consensus from legislators before he’ll call a special session, but two key lawmakers say they’re unsure a solution will emerge before Jan. 1 when teachers could face major premium hikes.
Appearing on KARK’s Capitol View, Rep. Allen Kerr (R-Little Rock) and Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) discussed ideas floating among their colleagues.
Legislators learned Monday that the public school employees health plan was running a roughly $53 million deficit. Teachers are facing premium increases as high as 48% by January 1, 2014.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be ready to do anything before next January,” said Kerr. “Mainly, we’d like to look at the benefits. I’m in the insurance business and I can tell you that price is always driven by benefits as well as anything else.”
“I think we want to make sure that we don’t just throw money at the problem and that we come up with a long-term solution and that’s probably going to take time. I’m confident that we can come up with that solution – whether or not it happens before January, I don’t know,” said Leding.
Beebe has said he’s willing to look at spending surplus funds, unused school lunch money, or repealing or reducing recently enacted tax cuts to shore up some or all of the deficit in the teacher insurance plan. help their rates.
Kerr and Leding agreed that a longer-term solution must also be fashioned.
“I don’t want the teachers to pay anything more than their fair share, but at the same time it may be time to look at their benefit levels and make some adjustments in order to
“As has been pointed out, open enrollment begins Oct. 1. If you don’t have the beginnings of an answer in place, you might see teachers begin to leave that plan, so the participation rate – which is already kind of low – is going to continue to decrease, which is only going to make the problem worse,” said Leding. “My hope is that we can at least have – if not an answer in place by the end of the year – the framework of one and know that we’re headed in a good direction.”
Watch or read the Governor’s full remarks at this link. You can watch the full interview with Leding and Kerr below.