Cliff Peale reports:
Nearly 1,000 employees on the Mason City Schools health plan will see that change March 1 as the district abandons the controversial TrueCost plan.
After a meeting Thursday evening with leaders of the Mason Education Association teachers’ union, the district agreed to go back to last year’s more traditional plan through HealthSpan, union leaders said.
Teachers had filed grievances after having trouble getting care because of TrueCost, which Mason schools imposed starting Jan. 1.
The plan sets payment at Medicare rates plus 40 percent. It has sparked a standoff between hospitals, who say they didn’t negotiate the payments and won’t honor the plan, and employers desperate to tamp down their own health care costs.
“It clearly did not work,” said Karrie Strickland, president of the union that represents 640 teachers. “Now our health care is back. We’ll be able to have access to care and medications and the things that our members need. We feel like this getting our contract back as well.”
Mason officials said employee health care is about 15 percent of the district’s budget, or about $15 million a year.
“We think the TrueCost health plan is an innovative idea whose time has come, but were disappointed with how the process played out with area providers,” Superintendent Gail Kist-Kline said in a statement this morning.
Mason teachers deluged the district with complaints about their new plan. Teachers apparently had trouble getting care at most local hospitals and were asked to sign forms that they had no insurance, Strickland said.
Hospitals currently negotiate discounts with large commercial groups of insured people. Insurers and hospitals say TrueCost is just trying to impose a lower cost.
Employers say traditional insurance contracts provide no transparent link between services and payments.
TrueCost is being managed locally by Custom Design Benefits in Monfort Heights. Officials there have not returned repeated calls for comment.
Originally, nine companies throughout the region with more than 5,000 employees had signed up for TrueCost.
Those included Home City Ice in Bridgetown and Ilsco in Madisonville.