Montana Ed. Panel Considers Health Coverage Alternatives

October 17, 2005 ( - Montana state budget director David Ewer has come up with two possible health coverage changes for the state's troubled education system.

At the latest meeting of the Quality Schools Interim Committee, Ewer offered two modifications to his original $14 million plan that would expand health insurance offerings to all districts in the state, BNA reported.

The original plan was aimed at bringing down premium costs for school districts by having the state pay all claims greater than $150,000. A union official criticized the plan for excluding retirees. Ewer said school districts could keep the savings incurred by the lower premiums and use the money for retiree insurance, but he came back to the committee with two modified proposals, both of which include retired teachers, BNA reported.

One proposal would have the state fund claims over $150,000 and the other would have the state assume responsibility for claims over $100,000. Both would cost the state $14 million, he added.

The committee took no action on either proposal. Ewer also expressed the administration’s “qualified support” for an idea to fold teachers, who are county employees, into the health insurance pool for state employees.

The panel is charged with drafting a school funding proposal that will meet the requirements of the Montana Supreme Court. The court ruled March 22 that the state’s current system of education funding violates the constitutional mandate for a basic system of free quality public elementary and secondary schools.