The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Board updated
on consortium's
financial standing

By Kristen Garrett
Herald Staff Writer

With changes occurring in the Western Pennsylvania Schools Healthcare Consortium, West Middlesex school directors are faced with the decision of whether to stay with the group.

Representatives of Tra-Tech Inc., Hermitage, the consultants for the consortium, talked to directors Monday about where the consortium stands financially after it was beleaguered by problems during the 2002-03 school year.

Board President Thomas Hubert said he's been attending the consortium meetings and it seems like a lot of things are being straightened out and things are changing.

"We made a few mistakes because we went self-funded," said Tra-Tech's Phil Smalley. "Do not make the mistake of judging the program on one time at bat."

Smalley said there were an unusually high number of health care claims in excess of $125,000 last year. The consortium planned for four, but 15 were filed. The group is planning for four such claims this year.

Those claims caused some of the problems for the consortium but things are leveling out, Smalley said.

Tra-Tech has been the consultant for the consortium since it began in 1995 but Smalley said he recommended the consortium consider hiring a new one. He said if the group has lost confidence in Tra-Tech it may be beneficial for them to get a new consultant.

"I don't want anything to happen to this group," he said.

The committee governing the consortium meets Thursday and could make a decision then, Smalley said.

Hubert also asked Smalley about the discovery of billing problems that showed the consortium overpaid $500,000 last year.

Smalley said an audit showed there were double payments made for administrative work, and he is recommending the money be given back to the school districts considering many districts had to borrow money to pay extra premiums.

Smalley pointed out that health insurance costs are increasing everywhere and the problem isn't limited to this particular consortium. "I think health insurance today is a monster that we have to come to grips with," he said.

Robin Hope of The Reschini Group, Indiana, Pa., also made a presentation to directors. The Reschini Group oversees eight health care consortiums including the Midwest Health Combine of which Greenville Area School District is a member and the Sharon City and Reynolds Area school districts will be joining in January.

Sharon and Reynolds voted to leave the Western Pennsylvania Healthcare Consortium.

Hubert said directors need to have enough information to make a decision about whether to remain in the consortium.

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