The people who manage millions of taxpayer dollars used to provide health insurance to area teachers continue to behave like ossified tree sloths. It is, apparently, just too much trouble to explore beyond their myopic comfort zone.
The very name practicaly calsiffies any discussion: The Northeast Pennsylvania School Districts Health Insurance Trust? Must … stop … eyes … from .. glazing!
Yet the Trust matters. A consortium of area school districts and education agencies, it sets insurance premium for those public entities, which in turn impacts local budgets set by school boards, which in turn impacts your tax rates.
One would think such a fiduciary duty would make the board that runs the Trust eager to keep costs down. Indeed, the Trust currently faces an existential threat.
Two districts withdrew in 2007, Lake-Lehman withdrew in all but trivial technicality last year, and the majority of remaining districts have announced they are contemplating withdrawal this July. And five of those districts have joined to hire attorneys to represent their interests in dealing with the Trust.
Most smart businesses would treat such events as a clarion call to action. yet at the last meeting of the board that runs the Trust, the suggestion of merely seeking competitive pricing for professional services such as auditing and banking - with no requirement that the lowest bidder be chosen - were met with rigorous objections and overwhelming “no” votes.
Wyoming Area Superintendent Ray Bernardi, who currently serves as the Trust’s board co-chair, called the rejection “unconscionable.” He was right.
At the same meeting several board members argued against making audio recordings of board meetings, even though an earlier dispute about the accuracy of written minutes from the previous meeting proved the need. That idea, at least was accepted.
Talk about transparency, accuracy and the notion of competitive bidding, and some board members behave like a southern belle from a bad ante-bellum b-movie: “Why, mah heart’s all a fluttah, I do believe I might faint! Do be a deah and fetch me mah smelling salts!”
Since it’s inception in 1999, the Trust’s success or failure at keeping insurance rates down has been mixed. But, frankly, that’s not relevant.
Unless the Trust makes some serious self-evaluation a top priority, it could disintigrate. And make no mistake, if the Trust dies, it will be self-inflicted.