MESSA rates up 24 percent in Jackson

JACKSON, Mich. - Jackson Public Schools will see a 24 percent hike in health insurance rates next year, an amount that Superintendent Dan Evans called "obscene," according to The Jackson Citizen Patriot. The rate hike by the Michigan Education Special Services Association will cost the district close to $2 million, and is one reason the school board cut 31 teaching positions and 20 other jobs, The Citizen Patriot reported.

The statewide average MESSA rate hike next year is 13 percent, spokesman Gary Fralick told The Citizen Patriot. MESSA, which is affiliated with the Michigan Education Association, is a third-party administrator that sells and administers Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance packages to a majority of Michigan public school districts.

Jackson board Treasurer Kathryn Keersmaekers called the increase "outrageous" and said MESSA insurance is an expensive luxury, The Citizen Patriot reported.

Fralick told The Citizen Patriot that the hike is due to a new system under which larger districts like Jackson are no longer placed in insurance pools that spread the cost across multiple districts. Instead, Jackson's costs are based on its own health claims experience, he said, according to The Citizen Patriot. He also said that overall MESSA rates are up due to increasing claims from unemployed spouses of school employees.

Bill Hannon, Jackson's deputy superintendent for finance and operations, told The Citizen Patriot, "I don't know that our experience was any higher than it has been in the past as far as having a number of employees off with catastrophic illnesses or whatever."

Jackson officials had budgeted for a 9 percent rate increase, and Hannon said he could not recall a hike of more than 15 or 18 percent in his 26 years with the Jackson district, The Citizen Patriot reported.

Officials from school districts that provide both MESSA and insurance from other providers said they don't yet know their rate hikes for the non-MESSA insurance.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, "Area school facing significant jumps in health insurance rates next year but nothing like Jackson Public Schools' 24 percent hike," April 20, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Most School Health Care Plans are Too Expensive for Michigan," Feb. 9, 2010