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LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Tuesday called lawmakers back to the Capitol to address a looming increase in teacher insurance premiums and prison overcrowding.

Beebe issued a proclamation convening a special legislative session to begin at 4 p.m. Monday, June 30, to address the two issues. This is the third special session Beebe has convened since taking office in 2007.

The session is intended to focus primarily on measures aimed at averting a 35 percent premium increase set to hit 47,000 public school employees this fall. The proposals being considered include dropping part-time employees from plans and excluding spouses from coverage if they can receive insurance from their own work. The package includes a plan to transfer $4.6 million in expected tax savings from districts to the state for the insurance program.

The legislation also includes proposals to require verifying the eligibility of dependents on teacher insurance policies and to allow the state to scale back or eliminate coverage for weight loss surgery.

The shortfall is blamed on an increasingly expensive insurance program, with many employees participating in generous plans that feature no deductibles. The Legislature last year required the plans to include a deductible starting in 2015, as part of a series of measures aimed at overhauling the program.

The session will also include legislation that would free up $6.3 million in the budget to fund up to 600 additional prison beds. Law enforcement officials from around the state have asked for the additional funding to ease prison overcrowding. Arkansas' inmate population has risen since the state enacted stricter probation and parole policies last year. Many state inmates are being held at county jails as they await state prison beds.

This will be the second special session the Legislature has held over the past year to address the teacher insurance program. Beebe signed into law measures approved during a special session in October aimed at limiting premium increases, including setting aside $43 million from the state budget surplus and redirecting state money in future years.

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  • Dontcallmenames
    June 24, 2014 at 2:52 p.m.

    I still don't see why teachers can't just be put in the "wonderful" Obamacare insurance. Isn't that where we all need to be any way...single payer, government run, socialized medicine like the rest of the world?

  • conritwng
    June 24, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.

    Guess how high your taxes will go up after the special session?. Obamacare was promised to make all out health care costs go down and Beebe agreed . So gripe at Beebe and see if he really cares what you think .....like all Democrats he does what he wants

  • CFSmith
    June 24, 2014 at 3:02 p.m.

    "...with many employees participating in generous plans that feature no deductibles." While I appreciate tremendously the service of teachers and their roles in society, who in the 21st century has no deductible in their insurance plans? This sounds VERY generous and definitely needs to be reviewed.

  • Steve_E
    June 24, 2014 at 4:49 p.m.

    I think I is wrong to take away benefits from the lowest paid employees to save the highest paid employees. These part time employees work for near minimum wage and now we are taking away the one benefit that means the most to them. Why can't we find more ways to help them rather than continually beating them down.

  • barttaylor5507191352
    June 24, 2014 at 5:48 p.m.

    I read everyday about the teachers retirement fund which is receiving about 15 percent on their investments and has a large surplus in funds. Why can't they move some of money to help out the current teachers with their premiums? Every time the legislators meet hang onto your wallets! They could take the money that it cost to have these special sessions and help the teachers with their premiums. Won't work, makes to much sense!

  • test12345
    June 24, 2014 at 6:14 p.m.

    Why is it that the $43 million the teachers got during last year's special session to be used towards insurance went mostly to raises????

  • SPA
    June 24, 2014 at 6:27 p.m.

    I know a man who works as a teacher; he tells us that his deductible is high and so is his premium.

  • NoUserName
    June 24, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.

    The funny thing is that my high deductible plan, when including both the deductible and the total monthly premium (employer + employee) costs LESS annually than the employee cost for the gold plan. So...why did we set aside $43 million and why are trying to put a band aid on it again? Scale back to a high deductible plan like, I would guess, a high percentage of the private sector.

  • aimee
    June 25, 2014 at 2:39 a.m.

    As teacher's leave the school's insurance plan to go on their spouse's or some other plan, the teachers that are left are asked to spend more and more... They make too much to qualify under the Affordable Care Act... Insurance companies are just determined to make the same profit with fewer teachers... That means raising premiums and increasing deductibles...
    ~
    A single payer system that ELIMINATES profit seeking insurance companies is the only answer to this madness..!!!

  • DontDrinkDatKoolAid
    June 25, 2014 at 4:51 a.m.

    Where did I read just this year that health insurance companies paid back to the insured some money that they, the insurance companies made to much???

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