PATERSON, NJ – In what they called "an effort to simplify some of the details of the new employee health benefits plan," recently enacted for Paterson Public Schools (PPS) employees, school administrators released a Health Benefits “Answer Sheet” on the PPS mobile app and website on Monday.
The switch from the School Employees’ Health Benefits Program (SEHBP) to a self-insured plan enacted in July is still causing concerns with employees continuing to report difficulties utilizing their health benefits.
Saying that he tours the schools and meets members routinely, John McEntee, president of the Paterson Education Association (PEA), the union that represents the District’s nearly 3,000 teachers and other staff, told TAPinto Paterson that “it is common for members on an overwhelmingly large scale to express to me their fears of using the medical plan for fear of bills not being paid, or worse yet, not having a procedure covered.”
The information contained on the site, which lists 14 items, including on access to prescription drugs, missing copay amounts on insurance cards, payment of out-of-network claims, and whether or not enrollees can receive a flu shot, was, according to a statement, originally distributed to all district employees sent on November 20.
“I cannot overstate how important it is to me that all Paterson Public School District employees and their families have the benefits to which you are entitled, and access to the health care you need,” Shafer stated. “My goal…is to provide you with useful, easy-to-read information about the most commonly reported issues and concerns. It was very important to me that this information be provided to you in the most convenient, user-friendly ways possible.”
While Shafer continued that the answer sheet is not a “final resolution” and committed to maintaining “diligence in working with our benefits providers,” McEntee said that they are still in the process of reviewing the website posting for “accuracy” and is ultimately still seeking a switch back to the previous plan.
“While I applaud the Superintendent’s active role in helping the Union resolve many of these issues,” McEntee said he is hopeful that “during budget time Business Administrator Richard “Leon” Matthews presents a plan to bring all employees back into the (state plan),” adding that the PEA's statewide union, the NJEA, is predicting that rates in the SEHBP will be going down in 2019.
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