News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 26, 2013

Firm to look at schools’ insurance

Examination beginning on eligibility for health benefits of dependents

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Board has hired an auditing firm to determine whether dependents covered by the district health insurance plan are eligible for those benefits.

An email will go out to district employees today to inform them about the process.

Reasons why family members might not be eligible could include age, if a child is over age 26; divorce and other factors, said Mick Newport, VCSC director of human resources.

By law, an independent audit is required every five years for the school district’s health benefits plan, according to school officials. BMI Audit Services will conduct the audit.

The issue generated several questions from board members, including Tom Thomas. He wanted to know — if a school district employee’s spouse can get insurance through their own employer, “Will this encourage them to leave our plan and go to their employer’s plan?”

Newport said no.

But Superintendent Dan Tanoos noted that various entities, including the city of Terre Haute, are going to “spousal carve out,” which removes a spouse from health insurance benefits if that spouse’s employer also offers insurance.

“We haven’t [gone to spousal carve out], and a lot of people are coming into our plan,” Tanoos said. “I think it’s something we’ve not discussed much as a school corporation,” but it may be time for that discussion.

“It really is costing us a lot of money,” Tanoos said. “I know we want to open our arms as wide as we can” to insure family members, “but we have to understand the  costs to the school system.”

If the district went to spousal carve out, an employee’s children could remain on the VCSC plan, he said.

Board member Alpa Patel asked what would happen if an audit shows some dependents are not eligible. Newport responded, “They’ll have to be taken off the plan.”

He also noted that if employees don’t provide information that is requested by the auditing company, “There are consequences. …  None of their dependents would then be eligible,” Newport said.

There will be mailings sent to employees, and the district will approve letters before they go out, he said.

A global email will be sent to employees today, Newport said. “It may offend some people and that’s certainly not what we want to do,” he said.

The audit will begin this spring and the intent is to complete it before the next school year starts.

The auditor will be paid through the district’s Insurance Reserve Fund, and the cost will be $11,600.

Also Monday, the school board approved a list of 60 individuals to serve as “school protection officers,” a new security initiative to have an armed police officer in every school, both city and county.

The list includes active duty city police and sheriff’s deputies, as well as retired law enforcement officers. The officers began training last week with the school district, Tanoos said.

The new security program is being phased in, but all schools are currently covered, he said. Protection officers will be in several schools this week and the roll out will continue the week of April 8. The school district is on spring break the week of April 1.

“We will have an armed, trained officer in uniform” in each building, throughout the school day, and a patrol vehicle in front of the building, Tanoos said.

The officers will be in the building for the entire shift. If an arrest needs to be made, for whatever reason — whether a student fight or parental dispute — other police will be called to the scene.

Those security officers who are not active duty law enforcement officers will have police powers through the Vigo County Sheriff as a “special deputy” or on “reserve” status.

Earlier this month, the Vigo County Council voted 7-0 in approving $135,000 to pay for safety/security officers to be assigned to 10 county schools. That is half the cost, with the school district providing the other half.

Last month, the city agreed to fund officers in 12 city schools that do not already have a police officer assigned. The $353,000 cost of those officers is being split between the city and school district.

The fact that the security program was approved so quickly shows how the community can rally around an issue, Tanoos said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@