Districts continue to see health insurance premiums rise

Most Texas school districts (90 percent) saw their health insurance costs rise in 2015‒16, according to a new survey conducted by TASB HR Services. And, of the districts that saw increases, more than 70 percent passed the additional costs on to employees.


Ninety percent of responding districts participate in a TRS-ActiveCare PPO or HMO plan. Other districts are self-insured, fully insured, or partially self-insured.
2015‒16 TRS-ActiveCare PPO plan rates increased across the board. TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD (high deductible) saw a 4.9 percent increase to the employee-only rate and employee-plus-family premiums rose 7.5 percent. TRS-ActiveCare Select rate increases were similar to the 1-HD plan. TRS-ActiveCare 2 premiums increased 10 percent for the employee-only tier; employee-plus-family premiums rose nearly 15 percent. TRS-ActiveCare HMO rate changes varied widely; Allegian (formerly Valley Baptist) costs increased about 3 percent at every coverage tier, while Scott & White costs increased by an average of 11 percent.
Last year several noteworthy changes occurred to TRS-ActiveCare, including the discontinuation of TRS-ActiveCare 3 and the introduction of TRS-ActiveCare Select, a moderately-priced option. Aetna was also named the benefits administrator for TRS-ActiveCare. With these changes, rates for some coverage plans were frozen last year (i.e., TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD employee-only coverage).
For the purposes of this survey, participants were asked to provide monthly premium rates and district contribution amounts for the employee-only and employee-plus-family plans with the highest number of employees enrolled in the district. The median district contribution amount for both plan categories is unchanged from last year.

According to the survey, the median employee-only total monthly premium is $341 ($4,092 annually); for the employee-plus-family tier, the total monthly premium is $1,231 ($14,772 annually). Both rates are equivalent to the TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD plan. In comparison to last year’s rates, this is an increase of 4.9 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively.
The employees’ portion of the total monthly cost is $91 for the employee-only plan and $996 for employees with family coverage. Similar to last year, only 15 percent of districts (35) reported paying 100 percent of the employee-only insurance premium.
Other national surveys show smaller benefits cost increases when looking across the U.S. According to a recent survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET), the average monthly premium for employee-only is $521 ($6,251 annually) and the average family premium is $1,462 ($17,545 annually)–a 4-percent average increase from last year. It extends a 10-year trend of moderate increases in national health care costs (compared to 1999 to 2005 when premiums grew an average of 11 percent annually).
Of particular note, the Kaiser/HRET national survey also found that deductibles have rapidly risen over the past five years in the U.S.—from a yearly average of $900 in 2010 to $1,318 this year—increasing almost three times as fast as premiums and about seven times as fast as wages. In comparison, TRS-ActiveCare 1-HD, Select, and 2 plan deductibles remain unchanged from last year. For example, ActiveCare 2 individual ($1,000) and family ($3,000) deductibles have remained the same since 2013‒14.
District participants were also asked if they implemented other cost-saving measures. Responses included onsite flu shots/immunizations (71 percent of districts), telehealth services (60 percent), health savings accounts (HSAs) (51 percent), gap medical insurance (40 percent), and workplace wellness programs (23 percent), as well as onsite staff health clinics, health risk assessments, and onsite medical screenings, among other responses.
Data was collected from 238 Texas public school district participants as of Oct. 31, 2015. HR Services member districts can still participate in the 2015‒16 health insurance premiums survey by visiting HR Surveys in DataCentral. A customized report of results is available for download in DataCentral upon completion of the survey.