Lawmakers to meet Sept. 9 to discuss rising teacher insurance premiums


LITTLE ROCK — The first in a series of legislative meetings to consider ways to address the spiraling cost of teacher health insurance is scheduled for Sept. 9, the Senate office announced Tuesday.

Representatives of the state Employee Benefits Division and the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board will be invited to attend the joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees and insurance and commerce committees.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, chairman of the Senate Insurance and Commerce Committee, said that he and the chairmen of the other committees will meet with the governor on Sept. 5 in preparation for the joint meeting.

Rapert called for the meetings last week after teachers and other school staff learned that their health insurance would go up as much as 50 percent, depending on which plan they chose.

He said he hopes that any proposals generated during the meetings can be considered during the 2014 fiscal session.

The Legislature this year voted to allocate $8 million in end-of-the-year General Improvement Funds to help prop up the teacher health insurance benefits program after hearing that the fund had been depleted in 2012 because of a number of catastrophic claims.

A spokesman for the governor said last week that Beebe is aware of the problem of spiking school employee health premiums and plans to ask the Legislature next year to approve additional funding to help teachers and school employees offset the rising premium costs