Health insurance boost supplements teacher income

Monday, August 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Some Oklahoma school teachers are reaping a windfall thanks to changes in the way their health insurance costs are paid.

Guidelines passed by the Legislature this year require the state to pay at least 58 percent of a single-plan premium, up from 33 percent. School districts must supplement the amount the state pays to cover at least 75 percent of educators' insurance.

A separate law forbids school districts from lowering the percentage they contributed last year toward teacher health insurance.

For some school districts, including Oklahoma City, Edmond, Moore and Norman, that means full-time teachers are getting more than 100 percent of their health insurance premium paid if they choose the state's plan.

The extra money can be rolled over to pay for a dependent's insurance or taken as cash.

In Moore, 167 percent of certified employees' medical and dental insurance is paid, said Norman Dean, district finance director. The extra 67 percent amounts to about $152 a month per employee.

Teachers in Norman also are getting a little extra pocket money. District officials said 125 percent of teacher benefits are paid, giving teachers about $57 more a month.

In Oklahoma City, 100 percent of teachers' premiums are paid, and $4 is left over. In Edmond, 120 percent of teachers' premiums are paid, leaving about $46 a month extra per teacher.

Martha Wissler, president of the Edmond Association of Classroom Teachers, said the change is good because it is more money for teachers or less money they have to pay for family coverage.

Wissler said it also will help pay for an insurance premium increase expected in January.

State and district contributions also will increase in January to stay within the percentages outlined by law.

``Anything the state and district can do to help us pay the high price of health insurance is welcome,'' Wissler said.

At least two of the state's school districts pay about 100 percent of teachers' insurance premiums.

Other schools, including Deer Creek, Guthrie, Tulsa and Yukon, are paying the 75 percent required by the state. Officials in those districts said that leaves employees paying about $57 a month for insurance.

Unless legislators change the law, all teachers will have a fully paid single-plan premium next year.